10 Cape winemakers to watch

Marelise Niemann, Momento Wines

Marelise NiemannFemale winemakers remain a striking rarity in South Africa, but since breaking out from her job at Botriver producer Beaumont Wines to set up her own venture, Momento Wines in 2011, Marelise Niemann is busy carving out her own distinct path.

Her white blend uses Verdelho, a recent arrival in the Cape, to bring a racier, more focused edge to South African stalwart Chenin Blanc. However, when you talk to Marelise it quickly becomes clear that her first passion is a rather different grape.

“I did a harvest in Priorat and really fell in love with Grenache,” she explains. “It’s my personal love.”

Looking at how the variety has generally been handled in South Africa – and indeed many other parts of the world – Niemann observes: “People think the wine needs to be darker so they add Shiraz and make it more extracted, but to me it is already complete. In South Africa people aren’t used to lightness.”

She draws a comparison with Chenin Blanc, noting: “Grenache is a very versatile grape; it can be unwooded and fruity or wooded with lots of texture and tannin.”

Although Grenache remains outside the limelight, Niemann feels she is at the tip of a potential zeitgeist. “It’s young days but it’s definitely starting to happen,” she reports. “Two years ago people were saying ‘Who makes Grenache on its own?’ but it’s now a trending thing so it’s great timing.”

For Niemann, that shift in attitude is being driven in part by commentators and trade outside South Africa. Having recently joined the Armit portfolio she confirms: “The UK is really supporting what we’re doing in South Africa.”

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