Grande Provence winemaker Hagen Viljoen.

CAPE TOWN - Hagen Viljoen, an accomplished winemaker, has been appointed the head of the winemaking team at Grande Provence, the landmark heritage wine estate in Franschhoek. His appointment was announced last week.

Stellenbosch University’s Viticulture and Oenology graduate, who has 12 years of experience in local and international cellars, takes over the winemaking responsibilities early next month. 

Viljoen will take over the reins at the iconic 300-year-old wine estate from Matthew van Heerden, who has left to pursue his own wine interests. Viljoen has extensive international knowledge and has completed internships in Mendocino in the US, Marlborough in New Zealand, the Barossa Valley in Australia and Saint-Émilion in France.

He says wine is indelibly intertwined in his destiny, both personally and professionally. He dedicates his spare time to exploring wine, food and the outdoors, ideally simultaneously with friends and family. Viljoen is working on a range of signature wines, produced at The Grande Provence Winery.

He says that beyond the popular sauvignon blanc, the range also boasts viognier/chenin blanc, chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, the estate’s flagship wines. Viljoen says the Grande Provence Red and Grande Provence White enjoy wide critical acclaim. One of the new additions, the Grande Provence Amphora is a chenin blanc-based blend from one of the oldest vineyards in Franschhoek.

He says the chenin blanc is one of the connoisseurs' favourites as it is fermented in four 400-litre Tuscan clay amphorae, capturing at least 6000 years of winemaking history, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and has set a new benchmark for this style of wine. Grande Provence has recently added an intriguing new zinfandel to its range of reds and there are new additions to the Méthode Cap Classique range on the horizon, says Viljoen.

The wine estate also produces the Angels Tears range, accessible, uncomplicated quality quaffers that are easy on the palate and great value for money. Viljoen attributes his past achievements to teamwork, using fruit from meticulously sourced vineyards, innovative blending and the constant pursuit of expressing the characteristics of the grapes better.

He says he is a big fan of UK wine doyen Jancis Robinson for his Piekenierskloof grenache and has used his 18/20 score method for all four wines shown to Tim Atkin in his SA Special Report, with 95 points awarded to Solms-Delta Amalie 2015.

This, he says, has been the highlight of his career as a winemaker. “For me balance is a key element in any great wine and I believe in translating the potential found in the vineyard in a manner that respects the fruit and reflects the character of its origin.”

The married father of three-year-old twin girls, Hanna and Kate, says his biggest passion is the Northern Rhône wine region in France and he loves wines of purity and elegance.

Viljoen says he has been very fortunate to work with some outstanding parcels of fruit sourced across the Cape Winelands and welcomes the new challenges at Grande Provence. “I am excited about the potential in the Grande Provence wine range and look forward to exploring its further development with the team. Franschhoek has fantastic semillon, which would be interesting to possibly introduce into the signature Grande Provence White blend.”