Sixth-generation Winemaker at Merwida Honours Her ‘Oupa’ with Premium Heritage Label

Wine farms in the Breedekloof Wine Valley were traditionally known for being suppliers of wine – rather than own-label producers. This has changed over the decades, with new and exciting terroir-driven wines bottled under wineries’ own names. This development is now being taken a step further with premium labels introduced at various wineries – a development largely driven by the new generation of energetic and young winemakers from the Valley. 

Winemaking at Merwida dates to the 1800s. Lieza van der Merwe is the sixth-generation vintner at Merwida, and an example of young energy and its results: the Merwida Family Vintners Chenin Blanc 2016, is as much a nod to the old as it is to the new. 

This wine pays homage to ‘Oupa’ Pierre van der Merwe, who was a third-generation vintner at Merwida, and grandfather of the current generation of proprietors, Schalk and Pierre jnr. It was Oupa Pierre who laid the foundations for the modern-day Merwida – and which Lieza is intending to honour and build on.  

This is the winery first premium ‘estate’ wine -  with 100% of the Fairtrade-accredited grapes sourced from the farm’s vines (W.O. Breedekloof). The crop for this wine was harvested from a block of 15-year-old vines. 

Says Lieza: “Due to dry conditions, Vintage 2016 was tough, but the fruit quality from particularly the chenin blanc grapes was excellent, resulting in this wine having a generous fruit-forward bouquet of passion fruit and citrus. It has a fuller body, as we allowed the grapes to ripen to optimal balling.”

Lieza says she tried to intervene as little as possible with the wine. “I experimented with some extended skin and lees contact before transferring it to stainless steel tanks. Midway through fermentation it was transferred to first-, second- and third-fill French oak barrels.” For lighter wood influence, Lieza also used some bigger 500L French oak barrels. 

Last year Lieza, along with head winemaker Magnus Kriel, produced a winning Sauvignon Blanc in the annual FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10, and she hopes that the Family Vintners Chenin Blanc will enjoy similar appeal in the market – “especially around family lunch and dinner tables, as that is what ‘wine-time’ resembles here at Merwida!”

On being young and doing great things, Lieza says: “Magnus, who has been head winemaker and manager at Merwida for 16 years, has taught me a lot. He provided exceptional mentorship and guided me with the viticultural and winemaking techniques used in the making of the Family Vintners Chenin Blanc.”

She adds: “We are changing the image of the Breedekloof Wine Valley and we can only do that by producing wines that showcase this valley’s unique terroir. Amazing things are happening this side of the mountain.”

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