Chit Chat: Tariro Masayiti

2011-05-20 15:34

GAYLE EDMUNDS speaks to the man behind the Nederburg white wines. The Zimbabwe-born wine maker will be in residence at the first annual TOPS Gugulethu Wine Festival next weekend.

Your wine making days began in Zimbabwe, where you are from. Tell us what we don’t know about Zimbabwe’s wine industry?

The Zimbabwean wine industry has been thriving for half a century, which isn’t long compared with South Africa’s 350 years.

Do you remember when you had your first glass of wine?

It was 17 years ago in Zimbabwe when I had my first taste of Sauvignon Blanc.

Would you describe your affair with the fruit of the vine as love at first sight, or something that took time to develop?
Love at first sight! It was the “mystery” and love for the finer things in life that got me to try wine.

I remember watching the introduction to the American soap opera Falcon Crest, which showed some scenes of beautiful vineyards. I always thought it would be nice to be part of that.

My childhood dreams became a reality.

Retraining, almost from scratch, to follow your passion shows true dedication. What was the hardest part of that four-year stint at Stellenbosch?

It was good fun being a student again and I felt very privileged studying at a reputable institution such as Stellenbosch University.

The most difficult part in the beginning was adapting to a foreign culture and language, but it wasn’t long before I found my way around campus.

In a world where patience and time are the watch words, you seem to have gone from novice to five-star wine maker in a few short years. What is the perfect balance for the tastiest wine?
I still consider myself to be a novice in the wider world of wine making and I continue to pursue greater learning from seasoned experts.

Which was the first wine you made?
In 2002, during my final year at Stellenbosch University, I worked as an intern at Die Bergkelder (home of Fleur du Cap and Grünberger wines) under the guidance of the wine maker at the time, Coenie Snyman.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to make a tank of Cabernet Sauvignon, which was really fantastic but nerve-wracking. I recall that the result was good, but what really impressed the wine maker were my attempts and ideas to create something unique even though I didn’t have much experience.

I didn’t let my lack of experience stand in the way of my imagination.

Nederburg’s Ingenuity White, one of the wines you and cellarmaster Razvan Macici have created, is a big award winner. Does that make creating the next year’s wine harder or do you have the winning formula down pat?
Making any blend is challenging and the most difficult part is creating that fine thread that links it to the previous vintages, much like adding another chapter to a bestselling book.

The secret lies in believing and acting on one’s instincts. If you did it once, you can and should do it again.

After your first visit to other New World vineyards in the US, what do you think most differentiates New and Old World wines, and the methods of making them?

New World wine makers try to understand what consumers are looking for and then craft the wines accordingly, thereby being more responsive to ever-changing consumer needs.

This often results in the New World producing more fashionable and exciting wines. The Old World wine makers tend to stick to the traditional while attempting to remain relevant to consumers.

With your gift for adding just enough of each varietal to make the perfect blend, does that translate into the kitchen?
To be honest, I enjoy eating much more than cooking. My favourite dish to make is chicken pasta. Pastas tend to be easy to make. They’re simple, but can deliver a “punch” when done right.

What is the first thing you do every working day as a wine maker? And the last?

I spend the first few minutes of every working day in the cellar recapping on the previous day’s work and then switch to focus
on the tasks at hand for the day.

The last thing I do is to take a walk through the cellar to make sure that all is in order with every tank and barrel before I go home.

As a Sauvignon Blanc man, what would you say to a Chenin Blanc drinker to convert them?
The idea is not to convert anyone from their favourite Chenin Blanc, but to encourage them to try a Sauvignon Blanc with certain types of food to show what works best. Depending on the style, both wines deliver abundant flavours and can make for everyday drinking.

While Chenin Blanc is more versatile, Sauvignon Blanc, like Facebook and Twitter, is always popular and easy to understand.

What would you open to drink at a relaxed, sunny Sunday afternoon picnic with the family? And on a cold, wet winter’s evening?
Relaxed and sunny Sunday picnics are best spent with a bottle of Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc or Nederburg Première Cuvée Brut.

My best winter wine is Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and I also enjoy Nederburg Ingenuity White on special evenings.

» Masayiti can be seen at the Nederburg Taste Theatre during
the TOPS Gugulethu Wine Festival on Friday and Saturday

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