Nitida’s winemaker Daniel “Danie” Keulder, who was recently named the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year for his 2017 Pinot Noir*, joined the Nitida team as winemaker in 2014 after making wine for five years at Groot Constantia. He studied at the University of Stellenbosch, achieving a B.Sc. Agric Viticulture and Oenology before doing his M.Sc. in Oenology on commercial tannin additions and their influence on red wine quality.
Keulder answered a few questions over a glass or two of wine.
How did it feel to be named Winemaker of the Year?
Pretty good and humbling at the same time! Making wine is a collective effort, so thanks to the Nitida team we managed to bring this prestigious trophy home!
What is your philosophy on winemaking?
I think every winemaker has his or her own unique approach to winemaking. However, you always need to get the basics right first – the planning is just as important as the plan; your footsteps are the best fertiliser for any project. Lastly, winemaking is not the making of but the expression of the terroir.
Aside from this latest award, what would you consider your greatest achievement as a winemaker?
The successful launch of three new high-end products at Nitida: The Golden Orb Sauvignon Blanc, The Tinkery (an experimental label) and The Grande Matriarch MCC have to be right up there! Other than these recent releases, the recognition and awards from the various wine industry players has been great.
Have you been influenced by any particular winemaker or wine region?
As a winemaker I think it is very important to learn and ask advice from as many other winemakers as possible. There is one winemaker I need to mention and that is Boela Gerber at Groot Constantia. This is where I learned all the basic philosophies and techniques of winemaking.
Can you use one or two words to describe your four Sauvignon Blanc wines and what would be your ideal food pairing with each of them?
Sauvignon Blanc 2019: Nectarine. Ideal with pan seared scallops, served with lemon pepper sauce
Wild Child 2019: Peaches and cream. Best paired with Moroccan spiced risotto
Golden Orb 2018: Fruit Bomb. Fabulous when served with a slice of warm Pecan Pie!
Coronata Integration 2017: Apricots. And I love it with roast duck
Why do you think such good Sauvignon Blancs come from Nitida? Is it the terroir? What else?
Definitely terroir! I always find it interesting when sampling grapes (and even later when the wines are finished fermenting) how easy it is to distinguish between grapes coming from Nitida and some of the neighbouring farms. Nitida always shows much more complexity and layers. Another very important reason is having a core group of people working in the vineyard that understand what is needed to produce high quality grapes year after year.
What do you enjoy about your job and being part of the Nitida team?
It has to be drinking wine at 8am! Jokes aside, harvest time – which is happening right now – must be the most fun time of the year where all the planning from the previous year comes together.
What is your personal choice when it comes to relaxing and having a glass of wine?
That very much depends on my mood and what food we are eating. I rarely drink current release wines, so I normally have a bottle open of something that we will be releasing soon and a bottle of something that has matured for a couple of years.
What is something other people might not know about you?
After my university studies, I was lucky enough to take a gap of three years making beer at a microbrewery in England. After that it was full time winemaking and then meeting my wonderful wife, Julie, and – a little later – three additions to our family, all of whom have enriched my life.
* The prestigious Diners Club award is presented to the winemaker who produces a wine that the judging panel considers the best in a specified class. The category for 2019 Winemaker of the Year was Pinot Noir.