Rosa Kruger, the viticulture consultant at Solms-Delta, is a pretty smart person. She has an M.A. in Communications as well as an LL.B. degree. These qualifications might seem a bit irrelevant for the tough business of wrestling the juices of the vine from the oftentimes unforgiving soils of the Winelands. But Rosa has forthright ideas about the relationship between the organic, complex quality of nature and the intellectual challenge of viticulture.
“Viticulture is a science like law,” says the lawyer. “But not quite like physics or maths, because there is always room for individual talent and choice.” Rosa goes on to say that one of the most important things she learned in her extensive studies in the wine-making areas of the world was that in the Old World there is often no difference between a viticulturist and a winemaker. Over the centuries French and Italian vineyard owners have integrated the crafts of being in the vineyard and being in the cellar; of being both a scientist and an artist. In the New World this happens less often, sometimes winemakers never get their feet dirty in the soil that they so depend on. This is something that Rosa feels very strongly about: “If you never see the grapes until they are delivered to the cellar, it’s like only meeting your son when he is 21!”
Luckily she is very happy about her relationship with the Solms-Delta wine-making team. “The reason why I wanted to come here was that I liked what I heard about the process of wine-making on this farm. The close connection between soil, workers, culture and wine-making.”
In France the wine farmers know from centuries of experience which terroir is suited to which cultivar and they concentrate their few, selected cultivars in those regions. In South Africa we tend to be far more random in our selection of cultivar and terroir. “I think that the Sadie family and Kanonkop are leaders in this field locally. They illustrate the fact that the best wines are made where the cultivar matches the terrior, including the soils… perfectly.” One of her priorities is to examine closely the terroir of Solms-Delta and appraise the appropriateness of the cultivars under cultivation.
Rosa draws on her communications experience. “It is essential to train your workforce. You must get close to the vineyard workers and show them exactly how to prune and deal with all the aspects of viticulture. You can add a lot of quality to the grapes, and therefore the wines, by working with them and demonstrating exactly what they must do and how. A well trained team is often a happier one that produces better, more detailed work.”
Rosa has accumulated ongoing experience at Rupert Wines, Rupert and Rothschild, Cape Point Vineyards and worked with Eben Sadie and in various vineyards in France, Spain, Italy, Argentina and Slovakia.