There’s nothing nicer than being in the company of young entrepreneurs striving to make their dreams come true. I’m lucky enough to spend a lot of time with talented individuals, but never before have I come across a 20-something-year-old making his dreams come true as a winemaker. I Love Foodies was invited to attend the launch of Warwick Denman’s premium range of wines a little while ago at the up-and-coming Loft on Kloof, and I had a chance to sit down with the young winemaker to chat a little about life, wine, and entrepreneurial spirit.
1) To start off with, could you give us a little introduction as to who you are, not merely as a person, but as a winemaker?
In Cape Town, one finds an abundance of wine estates within a 50km radius from the city, and having been exposed to wine culture from a young age, with my mother and father both being wine enthusiasts, I got to sample many different varietals and quickly learned the inherent expressions of these grapes, which bring such unique character to wines. From the crisp white wines of Constantia to the full body reds of Stellenbosch, I’ve tasted them all.
Having grown up in the southern suburbs, I’ve also been a surfer all my life and have always been interested in the weather. As a winemaker, the weather is one of the most important factors in growing grapes; together with soil type and specific location, it forms part of the unique ‘terroir’ of an area. We rely greatly on what Mother Nature can offer us year on year, and it is important that we respect nature as well as our environment; after all, that is all we have.
2) You’ve just launched your Warwick Denman premium range of wines. What’s the inspiration for this range?
My inspiration derives from a terroir focus. As mentioned before, microclimate is important in growing grapes, as is the soil type and lay of the land.
I chose the Simonsberg ward for my maiden vintage as I believe this area is so true to growing Merlot and Chardonnay. Many an accolade has come out of this ward, especially for Bordeaux blends.
3) You’ve selected to launch with a Chardonnay and a Merlot. Why these two varietals? And what wines can we expect from your range in future?
Chardonnay and Merlot are the two varietals I started drinking when I was first introduced to wine. They are both easy-drinking and extremely versatile when it comes to pairing with food. I thought it was fitting to start by making these two. In future years, one can expect a Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Semillon blends.
4) Making wine is very often seen as a luxury of the mature. What difficulties do you face as a particularly young winemaker trying to make his mark in the world?
Yes, it is definitely seen as a luxury of the rich. Making wine is an expensive hobby and many millions upon millions have been poured into big cellar operations to make a brand mark locally and internationally. That said, I foresee a huge ‘garagiste’ trend starting in the Western Cape, as with the micro-brewer’s revolution. I feel that small batches of wine, which are hand-made with more care and delicacy, and of a far more exclusive nature, are far more interesting, as are the entrepreneurial wine folk behind the movement.
5) Finally, we all know winemaking is a tremendously complicated process. Could you sum the process up for us (i.e. Winemaking-For-Dummies-style)?
Haha, yes, it is a truly complicated process with many complex chemical reactions occurring even before the grape berry has begun to appear and continuing all the way until after bottling and beyond.
Unfortunately, there is no winemaking for dummies. Each wine estate and winemaker has a different expression. Winemaking is where art meets science, and, as with any art form, there is a need for creating something from what you have been given.
I believe making wine is about creating an enjoyable beverage from what nature has given us.
So there you have it, a few notes from the winemaker himself. If you’re keen to try out the Warwick Denman range of wines, keep an eye out for his Chardonnay and Merlot at select retailers and restaurants. For now both of these goodies are available at Loft on Kloof and at Wine Concepts on Kloof Street, but we’ll keep you updated on more places that will stock the wines in future.
Warwick Denman Wine photographs courtesy of Rasikh Syed.
Interview Date: June 2016