Winemaker Profile - Estelle Lourens

Estelle started off her career studying Biophysics as she wanted to do cancer research , but she soon realized that although she enjoyed science, she didn’t want to spend her whole life in a laboratory and would rather spend more time outdoors.

Estelle started off her career studying Biophysics as she wanted to do cancer research , but she soon realized that although she enjoyed science, she didn’t want to spend her whole life in a laboratory and would rather spend more time outdoors. Winemaking seemed the ideal choice combining the outdoors, the laboratory and the cellar, and she’s never looked back.

“I didn’t know much about wine when I started, but once we started tasting wines in our third year, I got hooked, especially on the reds,” she grins. “There are so many different aspects to my job: the adrenalin rush of harvest time, the planning and preparation in the vineyards , and the chemistry and logistics in the cellar - when it all comes together in a great wine, it’s so rewarding.”

After graduating, Estelle tucked her award for best student in oenology and viticulture under her belt and headed overseas to see the world and learn more about her passion bringing in the harvest at Tatachilla Cellar in Australia and then at the Simi Cellar in Sonoma Valley, California, before returning to Neethlingshof Estate in 1997 there she worked as assistant-winemaker under Schalk van der Westhuizen, who had spotted her potential during her apprenticeship at the farm a few years earlier.

She moved on to assist Guy Webber at Stellenzicht and cites the 3 years she spent working under him as her best yet: “Guy is a great winemaker but also a wonderful person. He taught me so much about winemaking but even more about handling people. He also gave me the space to do my own thing and gain confidence as a winemaker. It was he who encouraged me to take up the position at Uitkyk, and since then I’ve never looked back.”

Estelle looks upon her appointment in October 2000 as winemaker at Uitkyk as an “important and completely new challenge”. Her aim since arriving on this beautiful estate is to work together with vineyard manager Rudi Buys to allow the vineyards to perform at their peak. By applying progressive viticultural methods, she hopes her state-of-the-art cellar will be able to rely on grapes of exceptional quality and flavour. “Nothing less will do,” she says emphatically. Extensive replanting has taken place in the last few years with traditional noble cultivars replacing old ones, and exciting Italian varieties, like Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, being added to the mix. Watch this space for exciting new developments in the not-too-distant future.

Just a few minutes in Estelle’s company leaves one with the distinct impression that she loves making wine and is passionate about Uitkyk. “You know, sometimes when I drive up into the vineyards they’re so beautiful I forget that I’m actually working. I love being part of this place and I am very proud of what we have achieved so far. We’ve got everything here, excellent terroir, good healthy vineyards, beautiful views and a stunning historic manor house with excellent tasting facilities. My aim is to put Uitkyk in the position it deserves as one of South Africa’s best cellars where the experience of the wine and the place leave an indelible print on one’s memory.

Uitkyk Estate
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