The story of how Wildehurst Wines came to be is one of those tales that should come with a warning – CAUTION: may inspire the notion of throwing caution to the wind and following your dreams to a place where magic still happens. We recently caught up with winemaker Sheree Nothnagel to find out more about the boutique winery established in Koringberg by owner Joanne Hurst in 2009, and how they became a force to be reckoned with on the local Méthode Cap Classique scene.
The garden vineyard that started it all
When Joanne Hurst bought the old Pastorie in Koringberg in 2003 she did not intend to start a winery. In fact, she wasn’t overly concerned with the expansive gardens that came with the property to start with, instead choosing to pour all of her energy into the renovation of the buildings. However, when the refurbishment was all done and dusted, she realised she had a bit of problem – there was a huge, big garden out there and she didn’t particularly enjoy gardening as such.
“This is when she started to look around to see what other people in town were doing on their properties and realised that a lot of her friends had planted little olive groves. So she initially decided to do so as well,” recounts Sheree Nothnagel, Wildehurst winemaker, and Joanne’s right hand.
“Luckily she went to Greece on holiday before she did! It was there in the Mediterranean, sitting with a glass of wine and a bowl of olives, looking out over the ocean, that she wondered to herself: if she had to choose one (either the wine or the olives) and couldn’t have the other one for the rest of her life, which one would it be? The wine turned out to be the clear-cut winner. When she came back from holiday, Joanne contacted Johan Mostert from Nieuwedrift Wine Estate, and he helped her to plant her first vineyard in 2006.”
Playing in the backyard of the Swartland
The first vineyard they planted consisted of 90% Shiraz and 10% Viognier vines and is literally located right in front of Joanne’s house. In 2009 she produced her first wine, the Wildehurst Red, by co-fermenting the Shiraz and Viognier grapes and aging the wine in French oak barrels for 18 months.
Things went swimmingly from there on out, and in 2013 the business had grown to the point where it was necessary to appoint a full-time winemaker. With a degree in Oenology and Viticulture Sheree joined the team … but came to Koringberg with one condition: she wanted to make Méthode Cap Classique (MCC).
“I told Joanne I don’t care what you pay me, I don’t care where I live, I just want to make MCC. And she said yes!”, enthuses Sheree. “The thing I love about making bubbly is that every bottle is unique – with the second fermentation happening in the bottle you eventually drink the wine from, you can actually sometimes taste the difference between one bottle and the next.”
Sheree also loves the fact that their winery is located in the tiny hamlet of Koringberg, away from the Swartland epicentre of Malmesbury and Riebeek Kasteel where most of the region’s cellars and vineyards are based.
“Whenever someone asks me to tell them about our farm and location, I always say we’re in a little town with 80 houses and 300 people, with a railway running straight through and wheat fields all around. I love it because we’re in the backyard of the Swartland. If you imagine the region as the yard of a house, we’re out back near the playset where the children can go wild and use their imagination. It’s small, it’s quaint and the terroir is something incredible.”
Experimenting with an intention to showcase the Swartland terroir
These days, Wildehurst Wines is renowned for their flagship blends, an exciting variety of MCCs, as well as experimentation with unusual cultivars that Joanne and Sheree handpick to showcase the Swartland terroir.
“We’re in the Swartland, so we have to make some Chenin. Then we do the wines that initially put us on the map (which includes a Grenache-based blend and Shiraz-based blend) … We also do some rosé, but what is most interesting is the variety of MCCs we make. This year (2019) I did the basic Chenin Chardonnay, which I always do, as well as a Cinsaut Rosé and I’m also planning on adding a Colombar MCC sometime soon,” says Sheree.
“To keep things interesting we also play with smaller parcels of grapes – things that I have never worked with before. This includes grapes like Petit Syrah, Nebbiolo, and Semillon. We’ll get in about 600 kg of grapes and make one barrel. If you mess it up then that’s it. It has happened before – I once tried to make a Pinotage and it came out bitter as hell; it tasted like aloe water! But when it works it works, and we’ve got so many success stories, like the Tempranillo that sold out (330 bottles in two weeks!), the Petit Syrah that flew off the shelves, and the Semillon that all ended up going to one client.”
How to get your hands on some Wildehurst Wines
To keep an eye on the Wildehurst team and find out what they’ll get up to next, follow their Facebook page or get in touch via their website. Tastings are available by appointment only, so be sure to contact Sheree before you head towards Koringberg to sample their beautiful wines. In the meantime, you can pick up bottle or two from select stockists in the Western Cape, Gauteng and a few cherry-picked countries abroad.