It’s been a while since I paid a visit to Lanzerac, which is unusual considering its proximity to Stellenbosch and its historic significance in the South African wine industry. A mere 5 minutes from the centre of Stellenbosch, Lanzerac is
synonymous with cheese platters and being the playground of students in the 70’s and 80’s. Platters and picnics aside, this historic estate boasts one of the regions most distinguished examples of Cape Dutch architecture. Dating back some 325 years to 1692, it’s also home to the world’s first commercially bottled Pinotage - a 1959 vintage released in 1961.
Meeting in the underground cellar to select a rare bottle of the 1969 Pinotage to complement lunch, winemaker Wynand Lategan shows off their pride and joy, the last known bottle of this collector’s piece, a bona fide Lanzerac Pinotage 1959. A commerce student and one-time journalist for Die Burger, Lategan was born and bred in wine country and so went back to study at Elsenberg Agricultural College before going to Lanzerac as its cellar master in 2005.
After 7 grueling years of “pushing a rock uphill,” a consortium of new investors breathed new life into the grand old lady. Thanks to a long-term vision to reestablish Lanzerac as a serious contender on the South African and world wine stage, a new vineyard replanting programme was implemented under the watchful eye of industry veteran Boets Nel.
Sitting on the terrace under the shade of the towering oaks, our starter of freshly caught Yellowfin Tuna paired sublimely with Lanzerac’s Mrs English Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 - named after the 1914 owner of the farm (who made Lanzerac’s first wine and gave the farm its name). A beautifully prepared curry was up next, perfectly matched with the 42-year-old Pinotage 1969.
Amiable and engaging, behind Lategan’s easygoing nature, there’s a grit and determination that’s more than ready and able to deliver on the potential Lanzerac has been promising for so long.
So when can we expect to taste the fruits of all the new investment into Lanzerac? Lanzerac should start hitting its stride towards the end of this year.
What do you enjoy most about winemaking? The fact that every day is different and the inherent sense of freedom that brings with it.
Highlights in your career? Spending a season in Margaux, in the Medoc. I suppose anytime you are recognised by your peers is also a highlight.
Your winemaking philosophy? Balance is everything.
The Lanzerac philosophy? To express our Jonkershoek terroir as best as we can.
What do you regard as the main secrets behind Lanzerac’s success? Terroir, and our long-term focus.
What makes Lanzerac’s terroir special? Jonkershoek is special. It is one of the oldest and smallest wards in Stellenbosch. It has a unique climate. The wind plays a big role and the valley is generally a bit cooler than the rest of Stellenbosch.
How do you feel about the South African wine industry’s present standing and its future on the international market? We’ve never been in a better position to capitalize on the international market, but at the same time, the challenges have never been bigger.
What are these challenges? Global warming, rising input costs and the fact that we are at the mercy of international markets.
Your favourite white and red wines – to make and drink? Chardonnay to make and white blends to drink. Pinotage and Bordeaux blends to make and Burgundy style wines to drink (at the moment).
Your favourite pastimes? Surfing, running, mountain biking, fishing – anything that is physical and outdoors.
Your goals and aspirations? Conquer the international wine world.
Can you describe the best glass of wine you’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking? The one I had last evening.
What can you just not do without in your life? My family, the outdoors and good friends.
What’s your life motto? If your dreams don’t make you afraid then they’re not big enough.