“Calm, precise, intuitive and softly spoken; always up for a challenge”, that’s how Bosman CEO, Petrous Bosman, describes their award-winning winemaker, Corlea Fourie.
This vintage is Corlea’s 10th at the Bosman cellar, and she has much to be proud of. A quick glance at the latest Platter will reassure with a 5 star wine, a 4 ½ star wine and a whopping eight more 4 star wines! And this just wasn’t a fluke, look back on her decade and more awards spring to mind, the top two being the Inaugural ABSA /Pinotage Association Perold Cape Blend wine for the Bosman Family Vineyards Erfenis 2010 (the year Corlea gave birth to twins!); the 2016 Old Mutual Trophy Show Museum Class Chenin Blanc Trophy for the Bosman Family Vineyards Optenhorst Chenin Blanc 2011.
Corlea recalls her first harvest on the Bosman farm in 2007: “I was doing some consulting work in the area and often came across Petrus as we were both making small batches of experimental wines in a cellar on a neighbouring farm’.
“So I knew that Petrus was busy renovating the 250 year old cellar on the family farm, and was planning to make wine in it. I remember thinking how much I would love to work there, but it was only in January, just before harvest started that Petrus invited me on board. The first press took us nearly through the night as we struggled to figure out how to use all the equipment, and from there the learning curve steepened even more.”
“The plan was to harvest from the best vineyards,” she continues. “The obvious choice was Cabernet as it had been made in the cellar before, and because Petrus’s grandfather Petrus snr, the last winemaker of the family, added it to all his red wines, believing it gave them the edge.”
Corlea smiles as she explains the haphazard way they kept finding more vineyards to vinify. “It was very exciting and quite daunting as I could pick and choose but I had to be able to manage it all in the new cellar.
One of the old vineyards was due to be uprooted that year: “It was very old and “haasbek” (literally gap-toothed as some of the vines in the rows had died) and the Bosmans pride themselves on doing things properly. But something caught our attention and we decided to try and make a wine out of these vines, planted in 1952. That was the Optenhorst Chenin Blanc, and needless to say we were astounded, and greatly relieved, that we had not pulled out this star-studded gem.
Since then the cellar has filled up with tanks and barrels, as has Bosman’s wine listings both locally and abroad and Corlea has been involved in it all. Says Petrus: “Corlea is a master blender but also lets the grapes speak for themselves by giving only minimal interference. In fact Corlea’s involvement has resulted in us becoming a leading player in the international Fairtrade market because of her skill with wine; and her desire to make a difference.”
“She’s also always keen to try something new,” he continues. Her natural wine-making techniques resulted in the Fides Grenache Blanc, an ‘orange wine’ in a league of its own. While unusual varietals such as Nero d’Avola, never get the better of her.
Through all of this Corlea has managed to remain wife and mother to three young children, a feat in its own right especially considering that the youngest two are twins!
“My husband Bertus and my parents help a lot,” she admits, acknowledging that she could never manage without Bertus’s constant support and understanding, especially his cooking skills! Of her children, she says her work has made them aware of seasonality and the natural cycle on things. They enjoy being part of the winemaking process with her and often spend time in the cellar playing with the farm children and dogs: “We all regard this place as our second home.”
Back to the current vintage, the grapes are all in the cellar and Corlea is very happy with the vintage on the whole: “It started late but ended with a bang as everything seemed to ripen at the same time. That meant we had to be very well organised in the cellar, but fortunately I have a fantastic team working with me.”
“I know I am a Chenin junkie, but the analysis of these grapes was really a treat this year. After last year`s drought, it was amazing to see how resilient vines really are. The low rainfall was not really a problem for us as we get good data from the weather stations and so can make critical decisions in time. In fact this year, which was the driest in 50 years, has given us our biggest yield”.
Corlea was also happy with the lovely healthy fruit delivered to her cellar from the Bosman Upper Hemel-en-Aarde valley, particularly to Chenin (of course!).
Never one to rest on her laurels, Corlea has made a Petitant Natural for the first time this vintage. So we can look forward to the release of this bubbly later on in the year.
For more information visit bosmanwines.com