South Africa is facing big challenges in the Wine Industry WorldWide. The big distance from the markets, the competition with other crops and great wine competition with other wine producing countries. We contacted Rosa Kruger, a lawyer that became a very respected Vineyard Manager.
How did you start working in wine? Where are you from and which countries have focused your work? How do you define your self in the wine business?
I am not an academically qualified viticuturist but have travelled extensively to most of the winemaking countries in the world over the last 16 years. I studied law at university and did my practical years as a lawyer when I was approached to run an apple farm in the Cape. I grew up on a farm and grabbed the opportunity to work and live on a farm. The farm was ideally situated for wine grapes, so I planted Sauvignon blanc on this farm with the help of several specialists and by pure luck it turned out to be a great site for cool climate wines. Since then I have been head hunted by several producers to assist in the design and rebuilding of their wine estates.
I was raised mainly on a farm in the north of our country next to the Kruger National Game Reserve. I have done some work in Italy but now focus only on South Africa. I am a vineyard manager specialising in finding the right site for the right wine and designing and planting these sites.
What are the challenges of grape producers with the changes in the wine industry. How terroir concept has helped to sell wine?
I believe that if you start with greatness, you will succeed. Matching terroir to wine variety and wine style is the way to start. I believe in purity of concept and having a wine that is authentic and absolutely expresses the site it is planted on. I think our wines in South Africa are way to inexpensive for the quality we produce and many of our top winemaking sites are now being replanted to fruit and citrus as these kinds of produce are much more lucrative than wines grapes. Our challenge is mainly to increase the prices of our wines over the whole spectrum.
I think the challenge in wine (taking into account that I am a vineyard worker and not a marketing specialist) is to stay relevant for the middle and lower income drinkers of wine. We should not all fall into the trap of making great wine only for the rich. Making good wine, still with a sense of place, at a reasonable price is the challenge.
How can you explain your work in old vines. What is the potential of old vines worldwide. Is the right moment to work them after the standarization of several wines worldwide? Can you fight with other brands with history, new/old lost varities?
I tried to identify and list all vines older than 35 years in SA. I think with climate change a reality world wide, we can learn a lot from old vines – why did they survive, what made them survive, sometimes for 100 years? Was it the variety/rootstock combination, the combination of rootstock per soil type, maybe the planting density per soil type, maybe the pruning method, maybe soil health? I do believe that older vines, mostly, makes a better wine than wine made from young vines on the same spot. Maybe not better, just different. It adds to the complexity of a wine.The wine from older vines seem to have a tighter structure, more depth, a better framework and a perceived freshness.
Have you read about the San Rosendo Malbec found in Chile? What do you think about the work done so far by Francois Massoc, Pedro Parra and other winemakers in the area.
I have had the pleasure to listen to Pedro Parra in the USA last year at a seminar and I admire the work he has done. Soil science is the heartbeat of viticulture. Finding the old Malbec vines in San Rosendo is great – it gives a sense of history and of sustainability. I would love to taste some of these wines and confirm my own belief that old vines express their terroir so beautifully as they are at one with the landscape they are planted in.
What are the challenges of South African wines in the global market? How is moving the situation?
I can not comment with authority in SA challenges in the global market as I do vines, not marketing, but I do believe that SA is at a very good place in the international wine market at present. We are making wines now that have a unique South African character. Wines like Skurfberg and Pofadder from Eben Sadie are wines that can only come from here – this extreme climate, these marginal old soils at the southern tip of Africa. We have slowly but steadily broken the view of South African wines as cheap and cheerful. Our top wines now show character and our white wines have a beautiful texture and layers of uniquely South African terroir.