It was at the Fruit and Wine Pairing during Vrede en Lust’s recent Harvest Celebration in March that this beautiful bright winemaker’s innate passion for and astounding knowledge of winemaking struck me for the first time.
Susan was born in Cape Town and grew up in the Free State before she did us all the favour of returning to the Winelands in 2000, now living for the love of wine! After graduating in Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch University and spending some time in France perfecting her craft, she joined Vrede en Lust as Winemaker in August 2006.
She now heads up the team in the cellar crafting her wines in a classic new world style, respecting the fruit from the vineyard whilst also aiming for pleasure in every sip. Susan considers depth, palate weight and the balance of fruit and tannins all as important factors to be able to make wines of different styles and for diverse palates.
So how does she know if she has a particularly good vintage?
Her answer is simple and testifies to the consistent quality that one becomes accustomed to with Vrede and Lust – to aim for wines similar in style, even when they have vintage differences.
She shares her fondness of Semillon and Chenin Blanc, which she considers to be both extremely versatile – from the unwooded to the more serious wooded versions. However, being a mother herself, she regards choosing a favourite wine like choosing between her children. You can’t choose… but some days you definitely like one more than the other!
Yet, it seems evident that the elegance and finesse unearthed in all her wines speaks of a woman’s touch.
Mentors, challenges and rewards
Susan heralds Nico Vermeulen as her starting mentor at Vrede en Lust as well as De Wet Viljoen from Neethlingshof, under who’s guidance she worked for two years. She also has a good friend in Jeff Wedgewood who regularly still stops by to check in on what she is doing. She considers him a true legend in the industry.
Even though she considers winemaking a high-risk profession, she believes that as a winemaker, you need to fall in love with your job to be able to overcome the challenges of seasonal and climate change, competitive markets and ultimately staying on top of your game!
However, the rewards are that, after a difficult day at work, you can go home and take something (a glass of wine) from your day at work to make everything better!
And to that I raise my glass.
Susan is the proud winner of the Landbou Weekblad South African Woman Winemaker of the year competition for 2007. She married her viticulturist husband, Arne Erasmus, at Vrede en Lust (of course!) in October 2008 and they have two children.