Daniel Keulder from Ntida Wines has been named the 2019 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year for his 2017 Nitida Pinot Noir.
This award is presented to the winemaker who produces a wine that the judging panel considers the best in a specified class.
Keulder, who received R50 000 as part of his win, joined the Nitida team as winemaker in December 2014 after making wine for five years at Groot Constantia. He studied at Stellenbosch University and achieved a B.Sc. Agric Viticulture and Oenology. He then completed his M.Sc. in Oenology on commercial tannin additions and their influence on red wine quality.
Daniel answered some questions over a glass of Pinot Noir:
Q: How does it feel to be named Winemaker of the Year?
DK: Pretty good and humbling at the same time. Making wine is a team effort so thanks to the Nitida team we have managed to bring this prestigious trophy home.
Q: What is your winemaking philosophy?
DK: I think every winemaker has his own unique approach to winemaking. However, you always need to get the basics right first – the planning is just as important as the plan; your footsteps are the best fertiliser for any project. Lastly, winemaking is about the expression of the terroir.
Q: Aside from this latest award, what would you consider your greatest achievement as a winemaker?
DK: The successful launch of three new high-end products at Nitida: The Golden Orb Sauvignon Blanc, The Tinkery (an experimental label) and The Grande Matriarch MCC have to be right up there. Other than these recent releases, the recognition and awards from by the various wine industry players has been great.
Q: Have you been influenced by any particular winemaker or wine region?
DK: As a winemaker I think it is very important to learn and ask advice from as many other winemakers as possible. There is one winemaker I need to mention and that is Boela Gerber at Groot Constantia. This is where I learned all the basic philosophies and techniques of winemaking.
Q: What do you enjoy about your job and being part of the Nitida team?
DK: It has to be drinking wine at 8 am (laughs). But all jokes aside, harvest time must be the most fun time of the year where all the planning from the previous year comes together.
Q: What would be your recommended food pairing with your award-winning 2017 Nitida Pinot Noir?
DK: On the back label we recommend pairing the wine with a wild mushroom risotto. I have also done an ostrich steak with cherry compote at home that works very well thank to the wine’s jubilee of strawberries, liquorice and flambé cherries on the palate.
Q: If we are not being too cheeky, any idea as to how you’ll spend your prize money?
DK: Part of the prize is a return trip to any winemaking region in the world so the prize money will have to go towards spending money for the trip. At the moment the destination changes from day to day between Burgundy and New Zealand.
Q: What is something other people might not know about you?
DK: After my university studies, I was lucky enough to take a three-year gap making beer at a microbrewery in England. After that it was full time winemaking and then meeting my wonderful wife, Julie, and – a little later – three additions to our family which has enriched my life.
Q: Final word?
DK: For the future I would like to keep on making wines that I love drinking and hopefully spend a couple more harvests in European cellars.