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 sixth in a series of seven blogs features Franco Lourens of Lourens Family Wines. Here are his answers to seven quick questions.
1) What inspired you to study what you did?
Sitting at my school desk in matric busy deciding what l should do with the rest of my life, the idea of having free and unlimited wine forever sounded like a great idea to start with… No seriously – being born and raised in Paarl, vineyards and wines were always part of growing up. From riding my bicycle past vineyards on my way to school each day, to seeing full loads of wine grapes being pulled by tractors through town spilling juice all over the tar road and making it sticky. I was amazed that you can make wine from grapes and that inspired me to learn this art of turning grapes into wine.
2) What is your favourite wine to make and to drink?
I love to work and explore with lesser know varieties and I especially love to work with Rhone varieties. I think there is a place and time for every type or style of wine and therefore I try to drink as many different types and style of wines as possible.
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?
First thing I will do is build myself a small shelter, try to make a fire and have a nap for a few hours – it’s been a hectic year in the winery thus far, so resting on a island for a day or two doesn’t sound too bad. Then I will check that the equipment works and taste the grapes to see what I have to work with.
4) Do you have a favourite wine experience (local or abroad) you would like to share?
I would say that travelling and working abroad at Vasse Felix in Margaret River and Ramey Wine Cellars in Cali was the best wine experiences of my life. It just opened up my whole wine world.
5) What is the worst advice you ever got in your winemaking career?
Wine is just wine and it’s a business. Just make it.
6) What advice would you give a local up-and-coming winemaker?
I think that times are tough and that you should really, really have a passion and love for winemaking to be a winemaker. It’s definitely not a get rich quick thing so you have to love what you do and be patient. Also that the biggest part of winemaking is in the vineyards.
7) Do you have a mentor in the wine industry (local or international)? If yes, how did this person influence you?
I’m very privileged to have worked for amazing winemakers like Matthew Copeland, Jacques Wentzel, Virginia Willcock (AUS), David Ramey (CALI), Gary and Kathy Jordan, Sjaak Nelson, David Finlayson and Miles Mossop. All of them have mentored and shaped my career and made me the winemaker I am today. I’m very grateful for all of them. Currently I’m very privileged to work for my biggest mentor of all time, Chris Alheit. Not only is he one of the best winemakers I have ever worked for, he is also just a great person in general. He mentors and helps me more that I can explain. Basically, if it wasn’t for Chris Alheit there would not be a Lourens Family Wines. For this I am immensely grateful.