Thinus Krüger is a man of interesting dualities – a strait-laced maverick that boldly goes beyond the edges of the map, but also understands the necessity of colouring between the lines. As a member of the Swartland Independent Producers he has become known for creating beautifully balanced wines that seek to reflect terroir and speak the language of the soil.
We recently caught up with the man himself to find out more about the Swartland Shiraz that forms a part of the Fram collection, and how on earth he came to name his business after a famous Norwegian exploration vessel that sought out the mysteries of the South and North Poles more than a century ago.
How Thinus decided to explore the ‘Here Be Dragons’ areas of the wine map
Fram Wines is a passion project that turned into a lifelong pursuit when Thinus decided to forge his own way ahead after 12 years of working for larger wineries.
“When I finished my winemaking studies at the University of Stellenbosch in 2000, my first job took me to Bergkelder in Stellenbosch in 2001, where I made wine for five years. After this, I took a two-year sabbatical to travel and learn a little more about the world. At the end of 2007, I returned to make wine at Boschendal for another five years,” recounts Thinus.
“By 2012 I’d decided that I was ready to make my own wine, which I named after a Norwegian exploration vessel that went to both the North and South Pole around 120 years ago. The name means ‘to move forward’. There is a museum in Oslo that tells the fascinating story of Norwegian polar exploration.”
Thinus always enjoyed the stories of the explorers that set out to go beyond the limits of what was known. He believes that people from that era looked at risk in a different way than we do today.
“When they tackled something, and it didn’t work or much was lost in the process (even lives at times), it was seen as a natural part of life. They would not lose heart or believe that the world was against them when they failed; they just got up and tried again in a different way. These days, we tend to be a lot more risk-averse than these dauntless trailblazers, which can seem cowardly, but we must also remember they were seasoned adventurers.”
“When I make a choice in the cellar it may seem like I am making a bold move, but it’s also founded in 20+ years of experience. While someone else may have made a different choice to get to a well-balanced wine based on their experience, my own background would lead me to a different conclusion.”
Striking a balance between legacy & inspiration
Although Thinus is known among his peers as having a rather experimental approach in the cellar, he actually believes in sticking to the fundamentals when it comes to making good wine.
“My wine is made with a pretty serious approach,” he admits. “I don’t necessarily follow a particular recipe, but I do adhere strictly to a few important principles. In my experience, this leads to a better wine. I want to make wine that people like to drink, but there will always be a major difference in palate from one person to the next.”
“This is where the art and personal expression inherent to winemaking comes in. Imagine if every member of the Swartland Independent Producers thought that a Shiraz, or a Chenin Blanc or a Pinotage had to taste exactly the same way – you’d have 30+ wines tasting exactly the same. How boring would that be?”
“Fortunately, we all have our own opinions and ways of doing things. In fact, two of us could be making wine from the very same block of grapes, but it will end up tasting completely different because, for instance, I believe the wine should be pumped over for two hours every day, while the other guy may not do a single pump-over at all. So while the DNA of the wine may be the same, there will also be plenty of facets of it that will differ vastly.”
About the Fram Swartland Shiraz
Thinus currently rents cellar space from Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards in the Swartland in return for assistance with some of their pressing and fermentation duties, which also gives him the opportunity to determine the quality of various blocks of Shiraz grapes each year. As such, the compilation of his Swartland Shiraz differs from one year to the next.
“The grapes for each year’s vintage is selected individually,” Thinus explains. “For instance, the 2018 vintage that is currently in the bottle comes from Joubertskloof in the Paardeberg, as well as Kasteelberg. Up to 50 to 60% of the grape compilation will differ each year.”
As for why he decided to make a Shiraz to represent the unique character of the Swartland terroir, Thinus believes that this grape in particular speaks of the singular soils in the area.
“There is an old sign as you head into Riebeek Kasteel from Hermon that reads ‘Welcome to Shiraz country’,” he remembers. “It was true many moons ago and is still just as true today. Fram Shiraz is from a selection of vineyards around the Swartland, combining barrels from the granite sands in the Paardeberg with those from wines that came from the koffieklip soils west of Malmesbury. My vision is to make a wine that will focus on freshness, and show lively fruit, ranging from red cherry to the black savouriness of liquorice.”
How to buy and taste Fram Wines
If you’re making your way to the Swartland and you have some lead time, you can contact Thinus directly on firstname.lastname@example.org to book a tasting. Alternatively, you can stop over at Bill & Co. Swartland Street Market in Malmesbury, or The Wine Kollective in Riebeek Kasteel if you want easy access and the input of some local purveyors. Alternatively, there are online stores that stock it as well that will deliver to your door. This includes Port2Port and Cyber Cellar. Capetonians can also pick up a bottle or two from prime wine destinations like Publik Wine Bar.
QUICK LINKS >> Website: www.framwines.co.za | Email: email@example.com | Telephone number: +27 72 545 4959