Winemaker Profile - Guy Webber

Guy Webber, the highly skilled creator behind Stellenzicht's superb wines, was born in De Aar in 1965.

Guy Webber, the highly skilled creator behind Stellenzicht’s superb wines, was born in De Aar in 1965. His parents relocated to Bloemfontein where he attended Grey College. It was in Bloemfontein where Guy’s interest in agriculture was conceived. When his parents relocated again, this time to Pretoria, he enrolled at Pretoria High School for Boys from which he matriculated in 1983.

Guy was accepted to study at the Elsenburg College of Agriculture. In 1988 he successfully completed his studies with a Diploma, in the first class, in Viticulture and Horticulture, as well as a Diploma in Cellar Technology. He started his working career as a Trainee Technical Assistant with Gilbeys in Stellenbosch, and then spent six years honing his skills as a winemaker in positions at Clos Malverne and Devon Hill Winery. In 1998, Guy joined Stellenzicht Vineyards as winemaker and has enjoyed phenomenal success ever since.

What does this talented oenologist believe determines the quality of a wine? Balance. Even during the growing of the grapes. “When the vine gets too much water, the berries swell too much and the resulting wine can literally be watery. If the vine suffers from draught, it gets too stressed and does not ripen its grapes properly. The result is a wine that can best be desribed as green or stalky. The aim is balance, to give the vine enough water to ripen its berries without diluting them.”

This, however, is not where it ends. Balance continues to play a role in the processes of fermentation and maturation of the wine. “Take the fermentation temperature, for example,” Guy explains. “High temperatures result in very good colour and tannin extraction in red wines, but also in the evaporation of much of the grape’s inherent fruit flavours. Cold temperatures, on the other hand, result in very fruity reds with little colour and often even less body. Well-known French winemaker, Robert Drouhin on the subject of balance: “living with your feet in an oven and your head in a freezer does not mean that your average body temperature is about correct. The most important thing about balance is to avoid extremes.”

Ilse van Dijk has been quietly getting on with the job Stellenzicht winery since January 2003. As assistant winemaker of such a prestigious estate, she is kept very busy assisting winemaker Guy Webber with everything from picking decisions to making up blends and analyzing samples in the laboratory. But as Guy is away so often presenting tastings and attending wine shows, Ilse is often left to run the show on her own.

"Winemaking is a slow process that doesn't usually require split second decisions, so I generally can discuss things with Guy before going ahead," she explains, "and usually we agree anyway."

Ilse grew up in Potchefstroom in North West Province, a far cry from the verdant winelands, and an area known more for it's brandy and beer consumers than for its sophisticated wine drinkers. However, Ilse was determined to be different, and when she heard about winemaking as a career while still at school, she enrolled for a B.Sc. degree in Viticulture and Oenology and ventured south to the University of Stellenbosch.

Once qualified, Ilse worked for a couple of harvests at Agusta in Franschhoek before accepting the challenge of starting up a winery in Israel. "I enjoyed that challenge," says Ilse, " their wine industry is very different from ours and not as well-developed so it really gave me new and different insights into the making of wine."

When Ilse started at Stellenzicht last year, the harvest had already begun so she was literally thrown in the deep end, but this year things have been a little easier. "I enjoy working at Stellenzicht because it is a cellar that is large enough to handle all the major cultivars, but small enough to get hands-on experience everywhere. Working here I also get to meet a lot of knowledgeable people, taste a lot of quality wines and get exposed to new ideas and techniques."

On a personal level, Ilse enjoys making wine because of the satisfaction she gets from creating something of quality that pleases people, especially those close to her. She's always been quite artistic and paints in her spare time. But when asked why she's not pursuing art as a career she's quick to point out that winemaking is just another art form requiring the same passion and creativity as painting.

Quiet and unassuming though she may be, Guy is quick to admit that he couldn't do without her: "She's more theoretical and meticulous, where's I work more on gut-feel, so I suppose we complement each other."

Wine Tasting and Sales

Hill&Dale is marketed by:
Cape Legends
Box 184
Stellenbosch 7599

Street Address: Blaauwklippen Road, off the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West

Postal Address: PO Box 104

Tel: (021) 880 1103
Fax: (021) 880 1107

Wine Tasting and Sales:
Mon-Fri: 09h00-17h00
Sat (Nov- Mar): 10h00-16h00