Takuan von Arnim, the Cellar Master at Franschhoek’s Haute Cabrière, says that stepping into this role as its new generation custodian has been a balancing act of sorts: while proudly honouring the von Arnim family legacy, his task has been to take the brand boldly into the future.
Takuan is the eldest son of Achim von Arnim, the pioneering wine grower who established Haute Cabrière in 1982 with the vision of becoming the first estate in South Africa to specialise in the production of wines in the style of Champagne. In just 33 years the brand, characterised by its iconic Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir, its Pinot Noirs, its Pierre Jourdan MCCs, and its Tranquille blend.
For much of the past two decades, the younger von Arnim has worked closely beside his father to grow Haute Cabrière’s distinctive portfolio of wines. Takuan might have been born into the family business, but it was expected he would have to prove his commitment and passion, and work his way up. Starting out as an apprentice in his father’s cellar, he was sent to Germany to obtain formal qualifications in wine growing and cellar management. He returned to South Africa in 2004, officially joining Haute Cabrière as Production Assistant, then Assistant Cellar Master which has culminated in his current position as Cellar Master.
“Many of the changes we’ve implemented have been more invisible to the eye,” notes Takuan, citing the rigorous administration and accounting systems that have helped not only to control costs but also dramatically improve quality and what Haute Cabrière is able to deliver to its customers. “There are so many things still to get done,” he adds.
Taking on the reigns, he says, has been about forging an independent style to that of his father while remaining profoundly respectful of the legacy that was created. “It’s not about putting a bigger foot down or changing what is already a golden recipe,” he says, “but rather taking the brand to another level. However, if I don’t have my own identity or expression in this art, Haute Cabrière will never evolve.”
Takuan credits his wife, respected wine professional Christiane von Arnim, as being a major force in shaping the brand’s evolution thus far. Christiane served as Haute Cabrière’s Marketing and Administration Manager, and later as its Managing Director, with her highly focused and strategic influence in leading the brand’s transformation leaving an indelible mark. She moved on in 2015 to a new position at one of South Africa’s top wine distributors.
Takuan has taken a holistic approach to the changes that have been implemented, from focusing on the brand and the marketing style to making the cellar more production driven and closely addressing the integrity of the wines. “This is the next step in the evolution of Haute Cabrière,” he says.
Takuan himself couldn’t be happier than when he’s in the cellar, where he is able to expand his vision for the estate’s wines. This year is the first vintage of which he has taken full control. He says there have been many “tweaks” made, with his father’s consent, which have contributed to the wine style “becoming even better”. He is also to be found continuing his father’s tradition of festive sabrage demonstrations, cellar tours and tastings of the estate’s MCC and still wine ranges every Saturday, proving that some things never change.
Always integral to Haute Cabrière has been its singular winegrowing philosophy - Sun-Soil-Vine-Man. The phrase represented Achim von Arnim’s conviction that a wine is grown rather than made, and thus the ultimate expression of terroir. While this philosophy remains true, Takuan believes its explanation can be expanded to encapsulate the growth of the brand.
“The message is that, while staying true to the philosophy that underpins the brand, there is more to it. We’re adding to it but remaining true to where we started,” says Takuan.
“With Haute Cabrière, my parents created a diamond,” he explains. “My intention is not to change it, just to polish it”
Haute Cabrière’s Tasting Room and Restaurant are both situated on Franschhoek Pass (Lambrecht Street), Franschhoek. Tasting Room hours are: Mon - Fri: 09h00 to 17h00 - Sat: 10h00 to 16h00 - Sunday: 11h00 to 16h00. For reservations and enquiries: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 876 3688.