5 minutes with Kallie Fernhout, Viticulturist at Delaire Graff Wine Estate…

5 minutes with Kallie Fernhout, Viticulturist at Delaire Graff Wine Estate…

Kallie Fernhout, Viticulturist at Delaire Graff Wine Estate in Stellenbosch…

What was the defining moment in your life that set you on the path of becoming a viticulturist?
When I was still in primary school, my grandfather bought a farm between Robertson and McGregor with vineyards and I immediately fell in love.

Where did you train?
Stellenbosch University.

Rosa Kruger, photo by Tim Atkin

Who would you regard as your mentor?
Rosa Kruger, old vine specialist

What do you enjoy most about being a viticulturist?
Working outside with all the elements that nature has to offer and every year you get the opportunity to create a new vintage that could last for many years to come.

Ladybirds on a vine leaf

What vineyard practices do you use to minimise the impact on the environment?
We use standard vineyard practices like cover crop to prevent erosion and carefully managed spray programs.  Some of our other initiatives include using Ladybirds as an insecticide and we erect owl houses to attract owls for natural rodent control.

Do you have any specific wine grape varieties you prefer working with, and if so, what is its special characteristics?
Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, the quality of both varieties can be greatly impacted by the use of vineyard practices.  These are two varietals we focus on at Delaire Graff Estate.

As a farmer, what are the biggest challenges you must face in your role?
Weather conditions and the movement of seasons. As we now face on the back of serious drought, drastic weather conditions have a lingering affect beyond the harvest.

Please give us a brief overview of the 2019 harvest and what consumers can expect from Delaire Graff for the 2019 vintage.
The harvest was a lot smaller but the white wines came in with high natural acidity which makes for great aging potential.

Delaire Graff Terraced Block Chardonnay Reserve 2016

Do you have a favourite Delaire Graff Wine – of course you do, which one? And what draws you to it?
The Terrace Block Reserve Chardonnay – it is a single vineyard Chardonnay. From a viticulture`s perspective this is a very unique block of vines with three different slopes, varying sun exposure and wine exposure meaning within a single block there is a multifaceted and complex flavor profile.

What is the one thing that you never expected, but have learned during your career as a Viticulturist?
Vineyards work on a no pain, no gain principle, what you put in, you will get out. The more detail you put into the vines the more characteristics the wine will show. Growing vines is like growing a Bonsai tree, it takes years of patience and care and your biggest rewards will only be realized after years of work.

Riesling grapes ripening on the vine

What was your fondest wine moment?
Alsace Riesling on a yacht, whilst fishing in Madagascar.

Your greatest bottle of wine ever?
Perhaps also more a wine moment, but during a recent visit to Portugal I had the privilege to taste some amazing Port wines in Pinhão of which, Taylor’s 40 year-old Tawny Port, stood out the most.

Taylor’s 40 year old Tawny Port

Do you enjoy cooking to show your wines off at their best or do you leave that to others?
I mostly leave the cooking to others, except for braai-ing, in which case I will open a bottle of red wine to enjoy.

What is your favourite style of food?

Your best style of restaurant, you enjoy visiting? Why?
Mediterranean, especially seafood based dishes, which can be pared with old vintage white wines.

Gary Mehigan, Judge on MasterChef Australia

Your ideal dinner party guest.  Tell me why you chose them.
It will be difficult to choose but probably Gary Mehigan from MasterChef Australia, because of his food knowledge and fun personality, other guests will include Madiba to inspire, Trevor Noah to entertain, Johan Badenhorst for some travel stories and my dad.

Your favourite holiday destination?
So many to choose from, but I will not pass up the opportunity for a barge holiday on the small channels and rivers of the French country side.

Richie McCaw, The Autobiography

What is on your bedside table as reading matter at the moment?
I like reading biographies and am in between books now, but up next is Richie McCaw’s biography.

One piece of music you would take with you to a desert island.
Any song by Imagine Dragons.

Working with pruning shears

I’m currently working on….
…preparing for a new season, first up will be pruning and then canopy management will follow.

My favourite weekend getaway is….
Any small town on the west coast of South Africa with some good seafood to enjoy with wine.

Dessert Wine, so reasonably priced in South Africa

Guilty Pleasures?
Dessert wines.

One day, I will….
…look back on my life, with a glass of wine in my hand, and hope to have made a small difference to the wine industry of South Africa, with many people experiencing an “Alsace Riesling”- moment.

The view from the Delaire Graff Wine Estate

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