Some of Darling Cellars’ vineyards enjoy the coolness of the Darling Hills, just three miles from the roaring Atlantic on the west coast of South Africa, while others bask in sun in the flatter hinterland. Their lucky winemaking team thus has abundance of flavour profiles to play with, not to mention a funky mix of varieties. Darling is best known for Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc as well as old vine Chenin Blanc and Pinotage, but their winemakers actually have fifteen red varieties and nine white varieties at their disposal. Their luck continues: 96% of the vineyards are un-irrigated bush vines so yields are very low and the quality proportionately high.
Investment continues in the winery and cellar with some of the most modern and up-to-date winemaking equipment in the industry today. A modern bottling line, new presses, a barrel maturation cellar, a new grape off-loading system and continuing replanting of vineyards, to include noble cultivars, all contribute to Darling Cellars’ advances in contemporary winemaking.
Pieter-Niel Rossouw has been Head Winemaker at Darling Cellars since 2014, specialising in their red wines. We asked him a few questions to learn a little bit more about him and his love of wine:
What first made you interested in winemaking?
I grew up on a farm where we farmed with wine grapes. My first attempt to make wine, the chemical reaction that took place, was the catalyst. From there on, I spent more time in our local Co-op winery than in school, learning the finer art of winemaking.
If you could choose another wine region in the world to open a winery, where would it be and why?
Not only one, but a few:
- Elim, South Africa – one the most interesting climates to grow grapes, producing some of the cleanest fruit on the nose and palate
- Costières de Nîmes, South of France – one of the most underrated wine growing regions, with its old vines and stony soils
- The area between Régua and Pinhão, Douro Valley, Portugal – the power of the red wines and the amazing vine-growing terrace
If you weren’t a winemaker, what would you be?
In real life, I am fisherman struggling to make wine, or is it a winemaker struggling to catch fish?! Our whole family love the ocean – swimming, diving, catching fish or enjoying a good G&T watching the sun set over the sea.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
Winemaking is never the same, you cannot make wine from a recipe and every day is a challenge. The joy of seeing how the wine starts once the vines start to bud, how grapes ripen, how juice transforms into wine, and how you blend the different components to create that special wine. The moment when you open that special wine with special friends and see how they enjoy it.
And the least?
There is absolutely nothing in my job that I do not enjoy. If we talk about the industry, now that is something different…