Martin ‘Marras’ Lamprecht really digs wine. Yes, he loves it. But he also digs it. There is a difference. Love is sonnets and black-tie shindigs with tuxedos and silk gloves; digging, on the other hand, is something that brings to mind secret snogs on the front seat of a bakkie, and skinny-dipping in a farm dam under a full moon. To dig is to enjoy something sincerely, authentically and without pretension, and this is Martin’s relationship with wine.
We recently caught up with the man himself to find out more about his Swartland wines and why on earth he insists on making it so very affordable at a time when showstopper price tags seems to be the name of the game.
The importance of finding your tribe & doing what you love
Martin was born Capetonian, but grew up in the small town of Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal, where his parents always had a good bottle of wine on the table and quite a few winemaker friends in the mix. Although he initially went to Stellenbosch to study mechanical engineering, he soon realised that his talents, and his tribe, lay elsewhere.
“I came to wine through the avenue of consumption,” he chuckles. “My love of entertaining and enjoying the good things in life turned out not to be all that compatible with an engineering degree. I’d also been working at the tasting room at Simonsig over the weekends. This was where I started learning about the behind-the-scenes work and dedication that goes into crafting the wines we drink so easily.
“I found it extremely intriguing and also got along famously with wine people. I found that the people involved in the wine trade were my tribe – it could sit around a braai fire with those guys and girls. So it only made sense to change my course to winemaking.”
A good thing too, since Martin graduated at Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute as the top male student in 2010 with a Cum Laude in B. Agric Cellar Technology. After he finished his studies, he went off to work for David Nieuwoudt at Cederberg Wines.
“I learned so much from him – in my opinion he deserves a lot more credit for the incredible work he’s doing. David has this mindset that no idea is too small to be worthy. His philosophy was that a bunch of small changes can be as effective, if not more so, than one enormous change or shift in perspective, and this is something I have adopted in my approach to wine farming and -making as well,” says Martin.
How to unlearn the idea that you are the centre of the universe
Next, Martin headed to France, where he worked in the Northern Rhône Valley and found that he had quite a bit to learn from the French, including the fact that he must not overestimate his own importance in the winemaking process.
“My time in France was an eye-opening experience since their winemaking approach is so different to our own,” he explains. “In South Africa, most wineries are still mainly production-driven, whereas in France it’s more lifestyle-orientated. Over here, it sometimes feels like we’re making wine to make money to make more wine.
“The French have the talent of sitting down with a bottle of their finest and enjoying their craft in the moment. Every morning at ten, there would be this break where the whole team would go and sit outside in the sun, eat some fresh bread, cheese and charcuterie with a good bottle of wine, and then head back inside to continue working.
“Their standpoint is very hakuna matata – don’t worry, we’ll get the work done. This is where I came to the conclusion that human hand is not as significant in modern winemaking as we would like to perceive; we live in the selfie era that would have us believe we’re at the centre of everything. Winemaking can be humbling, because there are so many other variables that make a great wine other than your own skill and talent.”
According to Martin, he is by no means disillusioned about his own importance as a winemaker because there are so many other things at play when it comes to the making of a good wine that he simply cannot claim all the praise for himself.
“I know that the day I lay down my head, there will still be other guys following who will be making great wines from this area. The fact that my wines are enjoyable is not purely my doing by any stretch of the imagination. There were guys who had the foresight to plant the vineyards here that I am now using, there are people picking the grapes, there are yeasts and bacteria doing their thing in the wine-preparation process.
“Wine is not KFC – there is no Colonel Sanders who will figure out the secret recipe. Everything does not have to be perfect every time either; if you keep your wine in the barrels for 59 days rather than 61 days your wine is not going to implode. There is so much more at play. I find that keeping the bigger picture in mind makes the whole process more enjoyable and a lot less stressful,” he explains.
Keep those BS levels low & make your wine accessible
When Martin returned from France, he made his way to the Voor-Paardeberg where he worked at Doran Vineyards and got to know the maverick winemakers that make up the Swartland Independent Producers.
“This was at the time when Adi and the rest of the guys were just starting out in this area. What attracted me to the region was the simplicity and lack of pretension. The BS levels are pretty low out there. People are honest, authentic and straight to the point. The way these guys are when they’re pouring their wine at the CTICC, and the way they are when you see them working at their cellar on a Tuesday morning is exactly the same. It’s not a facade, it’s real people doing something they love,” says Martin.
As for the confusingly affordable prices on this wines, Martin explains that he wants his vintages to be accessible and that he has chosen to enjoy a lifestyle that doesn’t make it necessary for him to ask premium prices for something he want everyone to enjoy.
“I don’t ever undercut the producers from whom I buy my grapes. I pay them good prices, which is why they do business with me. The trick lies in having a lifestyle that doesn’t need to be supported by a super expensive product. I don’t need a fancy car or lots of stuff to be happy. I also make larger volumes of wine. Wine snobs make up about 15% of the wine-drinking public, the rest of the people just want a nice wine to drink because they like wine – they don’t need to attach prestige to it,” he says.
“There is an excerpt of ‘Handvol Gruis’, a poem by South African writer and poet C. Louis Leipoldt, on the back label of my wines that speaks to the fact that true riches does not lie in possessions, but in experiences and the memories of these experiences. I want my wine to be accessible for the making of memories, it’s as simple as that.”
How to buy and taste Marras wine
If you’re making your way to the Swartland and you have some lead time, you can contact Martin directly on firstname.lastname@example.org to book a tasting. Alternatively, you can stop over at The Wine Kollective in Riebeek Kasteel if you want easy access and the input of some local purveyors. There are also online stores that stock it that will deliver to your door. This includes Cyber Cellar, Get Wine, and Woolworths (yes, we know, how cool?!).
But wait, there is more! An amazing Marras wine-tasting spot will be opening at the rather marvellous Riebeeck Valley Garden Centre in Riebeek West very soon, so keep an eye on the Marras Facebook page for more info…
We really don’t know what you’re waiting for – stock up ASAP and tell all your friends about this fresh, authentic new brand from the Swartland. It’s sure to win you some ‘how on earth did you find this gem’ brownie points.
QUICK LINKS >> Website: www.marraswines.co.za| Email: email@example.com| Telephone number: +27 (0)82 491 1948