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 first in a series of seven blogs features Jessica Saurwein of Saurwein. Here are her answers to seven quick questions.
1. What inspired you to study what you did?
A gap year after school afforded me the opportunity to work in vineyards in South Africa and France. After some late nights on rickety ladders on quiet farms, surrounded by nature, I knew that the wine industry would become my life’s adventure. A BSc Agric degree was a challenge. I was great at languages and art at school, but science was a foreign concept. Studying wine was like learning the language of nature expressed in merely one plant, the grapevine. I would do it all over again any day!
2. What is your favourite wine to make and to drink?
Pinot Noir, because when it’s good, there is simply no other grape that can be as compelling – energy, harmony and complexity in concert!
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?
Find the secret stash of bottles, taste and then start working in the vineyard and with the soil…
4. Do you have a favourite wine experience (local or abroad) you would like to share?
The best “prolonged” wine experience was my honeymoon. We set off on the journey to an island with 10 special bottles of wine and every day was like Christmas, when we could choose one of these great bottles to enjoy in that special setting. This included some wine from the eighties, gifted to us from a friend in Burgundy.
5. What is the worst advice you ever got in your winemaking career?
Add: enzymes, yeast, yeast nutrients, acid, fining agents etc. (the list is very long).
I feel strongly that one should work with the natural balance of the grapes and steer away from recipe winemaking. Great quality grapes that are made on a small scale do not require much work in the cellar. On the contrary, wines that are worked too much can lose their luster.
6. What advice would you give a local up-and-coming winemaker?
Work with the vineyards, with your hands, with your head and with your gut.
7. Do you have a mentor in the wine industry (local or international)? If yes, how did this person influence you?
I have been very privileged on my apprentice path in the wine industry. To name the way in which each mentor has influenced my path in wine, would make for an essay. I wish to name just a few mentors that have generously shared some of their wisdom with me and encouraged and inspired me to pursue my passion in wine (in no particular order): Peter Finlayson, Johan Reyneke, Alain Deloire, Gerard de Villiers, Gunter Schultz, Neal Martin, Eben Sadie, Rosa Kruger, Ryan Mostert, Peter-Alan Finlayson, David Bryce, Chris Alheit and my husband and wine aficionado Roland Peens.