IT used to be a man’s domain a couple of decades ago, currently it is estimated that about 100 women work in the Western Cape as qualified winemakers.
This was brought home again last week when Lauren Behrens (pictured), the new winemaker at the prestigious estate Le Bonheur, came to town to present a small group of us with four of her wines, all accompanied by a sumptuous meal at the Sun Coast Hotel.
Behrens, 31, had a solid apprenticeship and was assistant winemaker to long-time wine guru Sakkie Kotze, who has now retired after 20 years of crushing the grapes.
Before that stint, Behrens was assistant winemaker at Neethlingshof from 2006 to 2012.
It is clear from the wines that she has mastered her profession and although she studied chemistry at university, it was her father who suggested winemaking as a career – a wise choice.
“I only learnt to really appreciate wine when I started studying, even though my family have always enjoyed wine,” the winemaker said.
Behrens says that coming into a predominantly male world has been relatively easy.
“I have only experienced a warm welcome from the guys and have never felt unaccepted.”
The wines on show consisted of two whites – the 2012 single vineyard sauvignon blanc and a 2013 chardonnay – and two reds – the much acclaimed and long-running Le Bonheur Prima of 2009 and the Tricorne of the same year.
The sauvignon is showing all the characteristics of this famous grape with citrus and flinty flavours, while the chardonnay, with hints of oak, was an excellent pairing with our starter course of sole with crayfish stuffing and thermidor sauce.
The Prima has a distinctive nose of prunes and cherries with a lovely spicy and tobacco taste. It is a wine that was barrelled for 18 months in French oak. Its blend consists of 70 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet franc and 10 percent cabernet sauvignon.
The Tricorne of 2009 is a predominantly cab-based wine (40 percent) with shiraz (30) and cab franc (30). It is matured in new oak barrels for 26 months and I found it superb, with velvety aromas of vanilla and berries and a touch of white pepper.
Both reds were a perfect match for the lamb loin kleftiko main course.
Besides the wines already in the Le Bonheur stable, Behrens is very keen to expand.
“I think we have the most amazing shiraz on our farm which is used in the blending of the Tricorne. But I think it is so beautiful it can be bottled as a single variety. I want to make wines that are classical with the ability to age, develop each year and growing more expressive. That is my ambition.”
All Le Bonheur wines are available in most retailers around Durban and are distributed through Distell.
For any information phone Belinda McLaughlin at 083 303 9514.
• The Oyster Box Hotel will present a vintage tasting of Bouchard Finlayson wines on Monday, July 7. Renowned winemaker Peter Finlayson will take wine lovers through what looks like a memorable line-up.
Twelve wines will be tasted and served with canapés. It starts at 5.45pm for 6pm and will end at about 7.30pm.