Wine making philosophy

My wine making philosophy is a product of the numerous paths I have taken in my life and the very fine wine people with whom I have worked. As a former professional chef and a foodie, I have a great interest in making wines that are balanced and harmonious with a persistent lively finish. This conveniently aligns with many of the attributes of Painted Wolves, who are energetic, balanced and have the persistence to run for hours.

I am interested in long term sustainable relationships with grape growers, either as investors in Painted Wolf Wines or with other mutually beneficial relationships – these are our grower ‘pack’. Wherever possible we create wines which give the individual growers credit, and through this, help to promote sustainable viticulture and wine.

Our wine making strategy is largely based around the production of hand- made red wines, with a smaller range and quantity of white wine. Though I have worked in the cellar and the vineyard, I am not an academically qualified wine maker. The bulk of my professional life in wine prior to Painted Wolf had been on the commercial side. I have, however, had the privilege of working and learning from a few wonderfully talented wine makers, particularly during the time I worked for Kent Rosenblum at Rosenblum Cellars in California and for Charles Back at Fairview. In the past 11 years I have had inputs from a number of other local wine makers.

We do not own our own cellar. We have our own wine making equipment suitable for artisan wine making and over 100 barrels. This equipment is placed at a friend’s cellar, where we “den” down to make our wines. For the first few years we changed dens (as a successful and expanding wild dog pack would) a few times. Since the 2010 vintage we have had our equipment and barrels at Koopmanskloof farm in Stellenbosch. We have had the privilege of working with a few different wine makers who have assisted us over the years and from whom I have learnt a great deal.

We are fans of South African benchmark varietals, Pinotage and Chenin blanc and highlight these in our ranges. We also love unusual varietals, and rather like Painted Wolves, we like to shine a light on their unique qualities.

I like to work in harmony with each batch of grapes which we harvest. There are no recipes for wine making at Painted Wolf. Each vineyard and vintage provide us with grapes which are slightly different. The taste, feel, size, colour and sugar levels of each batch of grapes we harvest all drive my wine making decisions. We have small tanks which enable me to employ a variety of wine making techniques at the same time. I like to utilise the natural yeast found on the skins of our grapes to ferment them. Barrel selection is also made with reference to the look and feel of the grapes. I do not want the wood to dominate the fruit as I am looking for balance and vivacity in my wines.