The decision to leave Steenberg Vineyards after 15 years to focus exclusively on Silverthorn Wines, will see John Loubser taking this specialist Méthode Cap Classique producer to new heights.
“After an incredible journey at Steenberg, for which I am eternally grateful, I am thrilled to channel all my passion and energy into Silverthorn Wines. This is the culmination of a lifelong goal and dream. I have finally conquered my Everest, now for the stars…,” says John who will be joining Silverthorn Wines full time as of 1 July 2017.
What started out as a small family endeavour, making Cap Classique from their own vines on a small family farm in Robertson, has grown from just 3 500 bottles of Cap Classique made under contract at Steenberg in 2004, to current production levels of some 38 000. The 10,5 hectare Silverthorn farm situated on the banks of the Breede River, was bought by John’s father-in-law in 1976 and taken over by the Loubsers in 1999.
Producing only traditional bottle fermented sparkling wine, Silverthorn Wines enjoys acclaim as a thoroughbred Cap Classique producer. Their first vintage, The Green Man 2004, was released in 2006 setting a new benchmark for South African Blanc de Blancs. Since then two additional signature MCC’s have been added to the Silverthorn range – The Genie, a Rosé, and Jewel Box, a special cuvée of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
For John’s wife, Karen, who has been running the business end of Silverthorn Wines from the onset, the decision to focus his undivided attention on a full-time basis on the family enterprise is extremely welcome. A family business to the core, their daughter, Faine, handles all Silverthorn’s social media, whilst son, Tivon, assists with wine shows and deliveries. Of course, Thena the Rottweiler is ever present.
An accomplished winemaker, John has garnered many accolades including the elusive Diners Club Winemaker of the Year award in 2003. He became a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild in 2005.
We quickly caught up with the man behind the bubbles on his latest endeavour:
Q : Where were you born?
Q: Tell us about your wine making journey, where did it all begin?
My father owned a hotel in the centre of Windhoek. I grew up surrounded by food and in particular by wine. My father would take me to the Nederburg Auction when I was still young (13 years old) and it was an amazing experience.
Q : What made you want to make wine and where does your passion for MCC come from?
When I met my wife to be in the early 90’s, I found out her parents owned a little wine farm in Robertson. She wanted to study at Elsenburg. I thought this was an amazing idea and did it instead of her. It was the start of a beautiful life. My love for Bubbles comes from being an assistant winemaker to Pieter Ferreira at Graham Beck when I was a young winemaker.
Q: Do you consider your approach to winemaking different to others?
Making Bubbly is technical and very risky, so you can’t take silly chances. You have to be very accurate and have in depth understanding. This does not mean you can’t be creative. I believe I have been able to mix creativity, precision and science together in a way that not many other winemakers have got right.
Q: How involved do you get in the vineyard?
Totally, that’s where it all starts. Silverthorn Bubbly gets its character from the shale soils it is grown on. The high limestone content imparts a very Champagne like character of citrus and oyster shell.
Q : Have you been influenced by any particular winemaker or region?
Champagne and the Mosel – old world style of minimal intervention and the respect of traditional methods.
Q : What do you consider your greatest achievement as a winemaker?
Diners Club Winemaker of the year in 2003.
Q : How important is modern winemaking equipment in your winemaking?
When it comes to Bubbly, you need modern degorging equipment, it’s difficult to be a garagist style Bubbly maker.
Q: Any special projects in the works?
Working on a special Cuvee (will need a minimum of 6 years to finally hit the market)
Q: Is there life outside of bubbles?
Bubbles is life. Love nature, love the sea, love my family and love my dog, Thena the Rottweiler.
Q: What is your favourite bottle of wine at the moment? Best wine in the last two weeks… Gosset Grande Reserve – totally delicious. I love old Champagne!