Groot-Eiland uniWines had the privalige to host a young and enthusiastic winemaker all the way from Germany. This is what he had to say about his South African winemaking experience:
“My name is Sven Stadler, a German winemaker from the Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany. I am 24 years old and part of a family business where we grow both red and white cultivars on 30 hectares, which is small in South African terms but quite big in Germany.
The land has been in the Stadler family for many years and currently, as the youngest of three brothers, I am the only one who is actively involved on the estate with my father Heinz, mother Ulrike – and my grandmother Gertrud is also still involved. Please visit www.weingut-stadler.de for more information. We live only 10 km from the French (Elsass) border in a village called Dierbach near Bad Bergzabern. My father is the mayor and I am the chairperson of the fire brigade association. In Germany civilians are actively involved in community activities; e g, the fire brigade organizes festivals to generate income for specific projects and to purchase new equipment. This also brings the community socially together and is a reason to celebrate, which we can do properly.
My studies took six years, and currently I am actively involved in all aspects of viticulture, winemaking, marketing, administration, gastronomy and events staged on the estate. In order to make a good living on a smallish estate, we in Germany concentrate on quality wines that we normally all sell on the estate. Therefore public relations and good marketing are very important. A lot of effort goes into wine festivals. In our case in Dierbach we have a village festival as well as our estate festival. Furthermore we have a well equipped hall were we can stage events like wedding receptions and musical performances. That is in addition to the daily wine-tastings and gastronomic events like tour buses coming for lunch, birthday parties or other celebrations.
When I completed my studies in 2009, I decided that some foreign experience would be a good idea in order to broaden my perspective and experience, and also to get exposure to other cultures and to improve my English.
Groot Eiland Cellar, part of Uniwines, was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to work with them for two months during the harvesting season. It has been a very interesting and enriching experience for me. Only now I understand the vast differences between the German and South African wine industries. The terroir, cultivation and irrigation systems, and the harvesting methods are totally different from what we know in Germany.
Also in the cellar completely different methods are used as regards various aspects of making wine. This is due to the totally different climates and chemical composition of the juice.
In Germany we grow Chenin Blanc and Shiraz on a very limited scale. Pinotage, Malbec, Cinsaut and Muscat d’Alexandrie are unknown in Germany. In red we have for instance Dornfelder, Portugieser, Dunkelfelder, Cabernet Mitos and Acolon. In white we concentrate on Riesling (in SA known as White or Rhine Riesling). Germany is the biggest and best Riesling producer in the world, and that is the proud flagship wine of our region. We also grow Müller-Thurgau, Grauburgunder, Weißburgunder, Cabernet Blanc, Kerner and Chardonnay.
We simply do not deal with such quantities of grapes coming into the cellar as is the case at Groot Eiland. This necessitates the cellar being run as a “factory”, with issues such as labour and safety practices coming into the picture, more so than in our case. As a developed country, we work with a much more skilled labour force.
Everybody in the cellar was kind and friendly to me and very helpful, and I felt at home right from the start.
Obviously the weather was totally different to what we know in Germany this time of the year. I left Germany at minus 10° C and with 15 centimeters of snow! I landed in South Africa at 32° C – and the temperatures sometimes even soared up to 40° plus!.
I would like to thank Uniwines, and especially Messrs Aling Stofberg (Chairperson of the Board of Directors), Christo Smit (Manager of Groot Eiland) and Charl Myburgh (Assistant-winemaker) for the opportunity to get this wonderful experience. I will be back, since South Africa and its friendly people take a very special place in my heart.
Please come and taste our wines in the Pfalz when you are in Germany!
Keep up the good work, and best regards
Thanks for visiting us Sven, you`re welcome back anytime!