News & views | South Africa’s inspiring women winemakers

News & views

South Africa’s inspiring women winemakers

Anyone who reckons winemaking is a man’s job should head for South Africa and see the kind of wines that women are making in some of the country’s most exciting cellars.

It would also be a mistake to think they make ‘feminine’ wines. As with their male colleagues you’ll find a range of styles from crisp saline sauvignon blancs to robust grenaches made from low yielding old vines.

Here are 8 to follow I met on my recent trip.

Erika Obermeyer (@erikaobermeyer)

Her wines are not available in the UK yet but Erika Obermeyer is definitely one of the Cape’s up and coming stars having been nominated Newcomer of the Year in the 2019 Platter Wine Guide. Formerly the assistant winemaker at Graham Beck she went out on her own when the winery made the decision to focus on their sparkling wines and clearly hasn’t looked back

Look out for: the superbly elegant 2015 Erika O Cabernet Sauvignon

Andrea Mullineux (@mullineuxwines)

One of the original Swartland revolutionaries Mullineux’ wines, which she makes with her husband Chris, have become some of the most expensive and sought after in the Cape since Leeuw family invested in the business in 2013 (she also makes the Leeuw Passant range).

Look out for: Her fabulously mineral 2017 Granite Chenin Blanc and delicious straw wine.

Corlea Fourie (@bosmanwinemaker)

Innovative winemaker at Bosman Family Wines who not only makes one of the best Fairtrade wines I’ve tasted (the Adama white) but orange wine and a pet nat (naturally sparkling wine). A keen cook too judging by her instagram account (@corleafourie)

“Pet Nat is such a pleasure to produce. In essence it is HARVEST JUICE. It’s the Weiss Beer of the winemaking world - where we get to bottle something that resembles the wines that we as winemakers get to taste in the cellar.”

Look out for: the luxuriant 2016 Optenhorst Chenin Blanc from the third oldest chenin vineyard in South Africa.

Riandri Visser (@_Riandri_)

Formerly assistant winemaker at Cape Point, Riandri had the unenviable task of stepping into her high profile predecessor Duncan Savage’s shoes but is now confidently putting her personal stamp on its distinctive coastal-influenced whites

Look out for: Cape Point Isliedh 2017, a fabulously textured sauvignon blanc (awarded 96 by Tim Atkin). UK retailers still seems to be on the 2015

Trizanne Barnard (@TrizanneB)

Known as much for her love of surfing as wine Trizanne makes some classy whites from Elim fruit under her Trizanne Signature Wines (TSW) label but also dabbles with syrah from the Swartland. Part of the Zoo Cru group of small independent winemakers

Look out for: her wonderfully expressive cool climate TSW Swartland Syrah. (I tasted the '16 but again it's the 2015 that's currently available in the UK from e.g. Border Wines)

I’m always looking for freshness, uniqueness and contrast, which I have found in the cooler temperature vineyards of Elim for Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon contrasted with the concentrated reds of the drier Swartland. (From a recent interview with The Buyer)

Marelise Niemann (@momentowines)

A passionate advocate for grenache - "the best grape on earth” since she did a vintage in Priorat with Eben Sadie, Marelise makes her wines under the Momento label at the Gabrielskloof cellar in Bot River, sourcing grapes from all over the Western Cape.

“There’s a great future for grenache - it needs to be planted on South African soils” she said in an interview with Jamie Goode during the very dry 2018 harvest. “It’s just thriving in these dry conditions - small berries, small bunches, green leaves - and they look happy"

Look out for: both her grenaches - red and white (available from Armit wines)

Elizma Visser @olifantsberg

Another grenache fan is Elizma Visser of Olifantsberg who makes wine in the up and coming Breedekloof - in the process acquiring the most impressively dirty hands I’ve ever seen on a winemaker during harvest (She’s also the viticulturist) Her chenin is top notch too. According to her importer Hallgarten Wines if she hadn’t pursued wine, she would have liked to have become a professional rally driver"

Look out for: Olifantsberg's Lark chenin blanc 2017 (The Breedekloof Chenin is available in the UK from

Samantha O’Keefe (@lismorewine)

Not a native Saffer but a Californian with a background in TV who somehow ended up establishing a highly acclaimed cool climate wine estate (Lismore) on the site of a former dairy farm in Greyton. There she makes a supremely elegant chardonnay and viognier and again, a gorgeous syrah. (How do you get these flavours, someone asked her over dinner. “It’s terroir, dude”

Look out for: her beautifully floral fresh Estate Reserve Syrah.

Picture of Corlea Fourie (top left) by Tom Cannavan.

I visited the Cape as a guest of Wines of South Africa.

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Comments: 4 (Add)

Fiona Beckett on November 30 2020 at 07:43

That's a completely fair point, Chantal. The post was written some time ago but that's not an excuse. I have written about South Africa's increasingly diverse winemaking scene in the Guardian but have failed to update this post. I will as soon as possible

Chantal Potgieter on November 29 2020 at 21:19

Respect to all the ladies. I do wonder why there is not a single woman of colour featured in your article. Is there not anyone in the Winelands region? Or does this really just highlights the absolute ignorance, one-sided way with no change in sight? Broaden your perspective we are told, be inclusive, and be intentional when showing off the strength and tenacity of all South African women. I just recently visited a strong woman who for the last 15 years worked hard to get her foot into the white-dominated wine industry. She is not married to a winemaker nor was it part of her inheritance, she had to plant her own vineyard and today have her own brand. Is she not worth mentioning in your list of women in wine? Disappointing!

Fiona Beckett on March 8 2019 at 18:19

Thanks, Nick!

Nick Brett on March 8 2019 at 17:40

What a clever choice for an International Women’s Day post. Highlights some exciting looking winemakers and wines......

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