Wine Cellar has done it again. And that is identifying SA’s hottest young winemaking talent. This year’s Young Guns theme is “Back to Basics” and the fourth in a series of seven blogs features Paul Hoogwerf and Douglas Mylrea of Maanschijn. Here are their answers to seven quick questions.
1) What inspired you to study what you did?
Doug: After the family property, ‘Eagles’ Nest’, was burnt down by wildfires in 2000 it was subsequently transformed into a wine estate – which is what initially exposed me to the wine industry during my school days. It was fascinating to watch the farm evolve, from what was predominantly a big pine forest us ‘laaities’ used to run around and build forts in, into the steep, terraced vineyards present today. Having no idea what I wanted to do with my life towards the end of high school, and not yet having organised my compulsory week-long job shadow, I decided to spend the time on the farm with the winemakers, Steve Roche and Stuart Botha. After several days of riding quad bikes and taking part in barrel tastings, I decided that life could definitely be worse, and signed up for the course. The passion only grew from there.
Paul: Throughout my childhood in the Cape I was, subconsciously, somewhat exposed to the winelands and its industry through my parents, family friends and school outings. I have fond memories of gallivanting around Remhoogte during the winter, family picnics at Zevenwacht in the summer, and a primary school outing (when I was 10) to the famed Groot Constantia – the smell of their barrel room upon entering will never escape me. The desire to pursue a career which could stimulate intellectually and creatively, with a strong connection to the earth, led me to take up wine at Stellenbosch.
2) What is your favourite wine to make and to drink?
Doug and Paul: As simple this question is, we find a response rather difficult. In essence, we aspire to make the wines we like to drink, and vice versa. Our palates are perennially evolving and for this reason we try not to pinpoint a specific wine style or genre. What is becoming increasingly apparent, though, is that we both share an affinity for readily accessible wines. For us this translates to reds of nimble nature and whites of intrepid disposition. We are not afraid of wines crafted with time on skins and actively seek wines low in sulphur and alcohol – for all red, orange and white. Minimal intervention in the cellar and respect in the vineyard is paramount. We thoroughly enjoy drinking wine – not sipping – and aim to produce wines as such.
3) You’re stranded on a desolate island, but then discover lush and healthy vineyards and basic cellar equipment (left behind by the island’s previous inhabitants). What is the first thing you would do?
Doug and Paul: Wake up to realise we’ve overslept… Again!
4) Do you have a favourite wine experience (local or abroad) you would like to share?
Doug and Paul: Not to mention the JOL that was the Young Guns 2017 ‘Back to Basics’ which we attended – what a privilege to be given the opportunity to showcase our wines alongside such up-and-coming talent. It’s reassuring to know there is support and interest from industry and icons alike.
Doug: I’ve always had very unique and enriching experiences, in one way or another, from all the regions and cellars I’ve worked in over the last couple years both locally and abroad. A definite highlight for me was working a vintage at Francois Villard last year in the Northern Rhône valley. It was the first time I really experienced ‘hands-off’ winemaking, where the focus was on the farming of great quality fruit which, in turn, was left to transform naturally into beautiful wines through minimal intervention in the cellar. I had always been excited by this general philosophy towards making wines, but this was the first time I had the chance to really put it into practice and experience it for myself.
Paul: On the local front, my time at De Trafford, Stellenbosch, and Sijnn, Malgas, were thoroughly elevating experiences: gorgeous landscapes, concentrated fruit, two great teams and excellent wines to boot! An international highlight would most certainly be working the 2015 vintage at M. Chapoutier in the Northern Rhône – a riotous affair indeed! There I was fortunate enough to work with the fruit from a few Southern Rhône, and all Northern Rhône appellations, as well as taste incredible wines throughout the vintage.
5) What is the worst advice you ever got in your winemaking career?
Doug: This idea that wines need to be consistent from one vintage to the next. Something I love about winemaking is never knowing what to expect. Every year comes with its different challenges and one needs to be adaptable both out in the vineyards and in the cellar. It keeps things exciting, not only with regards to the making of the wine but also when experiencing them out of the glass (or bottle for that matter) and deciphering the unique story each vintage has to offer.
Paul: My interpretation of bad advice alludes more to widely accepted vinous mediocrity – and a certain lack in innovation – than any single piece of advice. That we should accept the norm, and not deviate from current thoughts. The “safe place” we shall not enter! The excitement gained through exploration is too much for us to ignore and we thus strive to live a life, through wine, without blinkers.
6) What advice would you give a local up-and-coming winemaker?
Doug and Paul: Follow your heart and follow your tastes. Connect, network and travel. Be a sponge around those with knowledge. Seek to spend equal time in the vineyard and cellar. Oh, also try and save as many pennies wherever possible… As, one day, they will most certainly be needed… We know!
7) Do you have a mentor in the wine industry (local or international)? If yes, how did this person influence you?
Doug and Paul: David Trafford generously allowed us the opportunity to kick-start our dream project last year and without his guidance and kindness, Maanschijn would still be only a bright twinkle in our eyes. Charla Haasbroek, a great friend, is also a fountain of inspiration – for her hardworking and composed nature. David Cope is always greatly supportive and also happens to run a sick wine bar. Roland Peens for his enthusiasm toward innovation and sharing new, great wines with the people!