In honour of women’s month, here’s an ode to all the women behind the Cape’s beautiful wines, whether they’re in the vineyards, the cellar, or in the office being the boss.
The wine industry in South Africa has been male-dominated since its conception. And by “dominated” we mean pretty much entirely hogged. Over the past two decades, however, women have increasingly percolated into the industry and have shown that – when it comes to nose, knowledge, and palate – there isn’t a shred of difference between the sexes and we’re loving the vast array of wines being put forward by South Africa’s women winemakers.
Here are just 13 of many inspiring females in wine!
Annamarie Fourie, Assistant Winemaker
Born in Saldahna and raised in Moorreesburg, Annamarie was inspired by her father’s love of wine and her wine-making paternal grandfather. Since her early teens she knew she wanted to indulge her passion.After studying Winemaking and Viticulture at Elsenberg College Annamarie harvested two seasons at Anwilka in the Heldeberg and was lucky to intern at Château Sérilhan in the Medoc alongside the famous Hubert de Boüard before joining Backsberg as part of the cellar production team. She joined Franschhoek’s Holden Manz in 2015 and has enjoyed the opportunity to be mentored by international winemaker Thierry Haberer – himself a mentee of the great Bordeaux based wine-maker Michel Rolland.Annamarie looks stunning presenting her award-winning wines at formal events but is just as much at home manoeuvring the forklift truck or repositioning wooden barrels.Her two great loves are Flynn her border collie and her wife Miemie.
Andrea Mullineux, Winemaker
After studying Viticulture and Oenology at UC Davis in California, and completing a handful of harvests in the Napa Valley, Andrea Mullineux returned to South Africa where she worked in Stellenbosch. Then at a wine festival in Champagne, France, she met Chris (her husband) and her love for South African wine and Chris brought her home where the pair learned that their compatibility extended into wine cellar. In 2014, Andrea was invited to join the Cape Winemakers Guild and in 2016 she was awarded International Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. She also has a California brand, Fog Monster Wines.
Carmen Stevens, Winemaker
The award-winning winemaker Carmen Stevens is the skill and talent behind Kunjani’s wines in Stellenbosch. Carmen graduated from the Elsenburg Agricultural College near Stellenbosch in 1995, becoming the first black winemaker in South Africa. Over the course of her career, she has worked as winemaker for Zonnebloem and Tukulu (both Distell brands), at Welmoed for Stellenbosch Vineyards, and Amani Wines, where she won the 2008 Decanter Red Bordeaux Varietals Trophy for her Amani Cabernet Franc/Merlot 2006. Today, Carmen is the driving force behind Kunjani’s lauded wine range and always strives to “put the best in every bottle.”
Emma Bruwer, Winemaker
Born and raised in Robertson, from where Le Lude sources a fair amount of their grapes, Emma Bruwer is the new winemaker at the Franschhoek estate known for its Cap Classique wines. She kicked off her career with a BSc in Winemaking at the University of Stellenbosch where she learned about a complex blend of chemistry, geology, oenology, and viticulture. Emma then completed a few harvests as winery assistant and intern, both in South Africa and in New Zealand and California.
Irene Waller, Winemaker and General Manager
Irene Waller originally trained as an accountant and then a teacher but was seduced away from her path in 1996 when she left teaching and spent the ensuing five years travelling between Australia, South Africa, and Europe to gain wine experience. In 2001, she completed her BSC degree in Agriculture (Cum Laude) at the University of Stellenbosch. Today, Irene is the winemaker and general manager of La Bri wine estate in Franschhoek, a vibrant boutique winery. Her favourite cultivars to work with are Chardonnay, Syrah, and the “difficult child”, Viognier.
Izele van Blerk, Winemaker
KWV winemaker Izele van Blerk’s motto, “expect the unexpected”, both provides the stimulation she loves and keeps her on her toes in the winemaking business, where “no one wine will ever taste the same twice”.Through her responsibility for the KWV Classic Collection, a range of stylish and sophisticated wines reserved for the discerning wine drinker, this approach stands her in good stead. Izele has a BSc degree in Viticulture and Oenology from Stellenbosch and began working at KWV in 2009. She also completed a stint at a Falesco Winery in Italy and passed the Michel Fridjhon Tasting Academy exam with distinction, which has lead her on the path to wine judging.
Jacoline Haasbroek, AKA “My Wyn”, started Franschhoek’s smallest cellar in 2001 when she decided to round off her Wine Diploma II by buying a ton of grapes and making her own wine. Jacoline wanted to see whether what she had learned on paper also worked in practice. Thanks to some excellent Shiraz grapes from La Motte estate in Franschhoek and the help of many knowledgeable friends, her first effort as winemaker was a success, delivering a delicious and much sought-after wine. Today, nine years later, Jacoline is the genius, the heart, and soul behind a range of small batch, hand-crafted wines, which are available for private tastings from her home. She is also a member of the Franschhoek Vignerons, where she is recognised as their smallest cellar.
“My Wyn specialises in hand-made wines, created in a rather primitive cellar without steel or modern technology, just lots of passion and heaps of patience.”
Lizelle Gerber, Cellar Master
As the feisty woman behind the white and Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wines at Boschendal since 2008, Lizelle Gerber has established herself as one of the Cape’s hottest winemaking talents. She exploded onto the South African wine scene in 2000 during her tenure at Avontuur Estate, raking in an avalanche of awards and accolades for her wines. Prior to that Lizelle worked at Zevenwacht Estate, spent a harvest in France’s Alsace region, and completed a brief stint at Eikendal and then Boschendal before she grabbed the attention of Nederberg.
Danielle Jacobs, Assistant Winemaker
Lizelle works side-by-side with another inspiring female (assistant) winemaker, Danielle Jacobs. At just 11 years old, Danielle’s uncle inspired her to be a winemaker with his tales of winemaking and viticulture from Elsenburg. Since then, her devotion to the profession has only grown and as the assistant winemaker at Boschendal, she plays a pivotal role in creating the estate’s award-winning vintages. Inspired by the likes of Norma Ratcliffe, Fiona Mcdonald, Elunda Basson, Andrea Mullineux and, of course, Lizelle Gerber, Danielle is a strong voice for female winemakers in the industry.
Marozanne Bieldt, Winemaker
Haut Espoir, meaning “high hope” in French, is a boutique wine estate and cellar in Franschhoek that has run under the stewardship of the Armstrong Family since 1999. Here, winemaker Marozanne Bieldt (previously assistant winemaker at Môreson) produces distinctive, focused, and impressive handcrafted wines that are in harmony with nature, using no fungicides, insecticides, or commercially bought fertilisers to grow the grapes. Haut Espoir is a a 23 hectare farm, of which eight hectares are planted with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. The remainder of the land is dedicated to fynbos restoration, a riverine ecosystem, olive groves, and a vegetable and herb garden. Marozanne brings with her an attention to detail and a deft touch that have paid off tremendously in the quality of Haut Espoir’s wines.
Nadia Barnard, Winemaker
After matriculating, Nadia Barnard followed her dream of becoming a winemaker and graduated with a BSc degree specialising in viticulture and oenology from Stellenbosch University. Since then, Nadia has had eclectic training as a winemaker with experiences in many top Cape and international wineries, including Vergelegen Estate and Flagstone Winery. Her pursuit of quality winemaking also landed her harvest internships at Balnaves of Coonawarra, a small family-owned wine company in South Australia; Koru Wines and Moutere Hills in New Zealand, and Domaine Laroche and Domaine Boutinot in Burgundy, France.
Ntsiki Biyela, Winemaker and Business Owner
Ntsiki Biyela shot to fame in 2004 as one of South Africa’s first black female winemakers, shattering stereotypes. She now exports around the world with Aslina Wines, which produces Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and a Bordeaux-style blend sourced from Stellenbosch. Biyela entered the industry after studying viticulture at Stellenbosch University, and worked as a resident winemaker at Stellekaya Winery, where her Cabernet Sauvignon earned her South Africa’s Woman Winemaker of the Year 2019. Aslina’s wine is not yet available locally, but plans are afoot to take it to many more global markets!
Rianie Strydom, Winemaker and Business Owner
In 2004, after ten years as winemaker at Morgenhof Estate, Rianie Strydom took up the dual role of general manager and winemaker at Haskell Vineyards and Dombeya Wines in the Helderberg. Here, she won several local and international awards and made six five-star John Platter wines. But in 2018, the time came for Rianie to focus on her lifelong dream: to start her own family business, Strydom Family Wines, which today produces small batch artisan wine. A graduate of the University of Stellenbosch and a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild, Rianie worked vintage in Burgundy in 1996 and in St Emilion, Bordeaux in 1998 to further her winemaking skills.