We chat to co-owner of Groote Post wines, Nick Pentz, about their winning Merlot, the Groote Post brand and the Cape West Coast.
Why and how did you get into wine production?
I completed my studies in 1991 and joined my dad on the farm in 1992. At the time, we were big dairy farmers and we were looking to diversify our farming operation. I jokingly say that we milked from five in the morning till 11 at night and that my Dad was looking for something for me to do for the remaining six hours. It was at this time that the world markets opened up to South African wines, which paved the way for the abolishment of the strict grape supply quotas.
Since we didn’t have a quota, we were not permitted to produce wine grapes at Groote Post before 1993. We planted our first vines in 1993, but did not make our first wine until 1999. Neil Ellis had been making his award-winning Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc next door to us since the mid-eighties. This inspired us to start making our own wine as we knew that through Sauvignon Blanc we had a potential winner. And so it was.
What does an average day entail for you?
The mornings are normally for marketing admin or wine production-related matters. In the afternoon I would either be on the farm or entertaining wine visitors. Lukas, our winemaker, will often have a string of wine samples lined up for us at around five. I travel abroad and throughout South Africa for around 90 nights per year promoting our wine.
Groote Post recently won the Best Merlot Trophy at the 2016 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. What does this achievement mean to you?
The Merlot Trophy is not awarded every year and was last won in 2012. The judges clearly reserve the trophy award for a very special wine. The OMTWS is highly regarded throughout the industry and winning a gold medal or a trophy is held in very high esteem. We are, of course, thrilled to have won the merlot trophy.
Merlot has always been considered a challenging wine to make in the Cape. Why is this?
It’s tricky to get the Merlot physiologically ripe. The grapes easily attain sugar ripeness, but can be green and stalky due to the flesh of the grape not ripening properly. No winemaker can make quality wine with green grapes. Jannie de Clerk, our viticulturist, has done a huge amount of work in the vineyard getting the vines and crop in balance to ensure even ripening. Lukas has also pursued a lengthened barrel regime to enhance the wine’s development.
What other Groote Post varietals should wine lovers stock up on?
Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz out of Darling are always winners. Riesling is a rising star with its off-dry appeal. Also, don’t forget our The Old Man’s bled Red and White for their everyday drinkability.
What should people know about Groote Post as a wine estate and brand?
We are a family-run wine farm, set in the beautiful Darling Hills. Groote Post is an old VOC trading post and all the Cape Dutch buildings date back to the 1700s. Our proximity to the cold Atlantic and our clay soil produce wines with a unique minerality and taste profile.
What would you recommend that visitors of the Groote Post estate do while they’re there?
We’re open seven days a week for wine tasting and sales. Hilda’s Kitchen, named after the well-known 19th century cookbook writer, Hildagonda Duckitt, is open for lunches from Wednesday to Sunday. Groote Post has a wonderful rustic country charm to it and encompasses 2 700 hectares. Besides the wine grapes, crops, beef and sheep make up the farming activities. There is also an antelope game camp with nine different antelope species, including eland, kudu and Black Wildebeest. We also have Burchell Zebra which are part of the National Quagga Breeding Program.
We offer visitors a two-hour farm drive, on which they can ride out on our game-viewing vehicle to see the antelope, do a mini wine tasting and enjoy a cheese platter in the vineyards overlooking Table Mountain. We also have a very popular last Sunday of the Month Country Market on the farm. There are 55 stalls with food, local produce and many other niceties. There is ample entertainment for the children, with tractor and horse rides as well as other activities. The markets run from August to April.
What would travellers find unique about the Cape West Coast?
It’s easily accessibile off the R27 West Coast road; you can be anywhere within an hour. The ruggedness and sparse landscape tucked up against the beautiful coastline and Langebaan Lagoon has a unique calling. The friendliness and hospitality of the West Coast offerings are very special. There are also the wildflowers in spring to look out for, they’re a world-famous attraction.