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Meet Tokara Winemaker Stuart Botha

Having completed his first harvest at Tokara, winemaker Stuart Botha shares some of his wine-related knowledge – and a few personal insights too.

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Winemaker Stuart Botha joined the team at prestigious Stellenbosch wine estate Tokara in 2017 after having made award-winning wines in Constantia since 2007. Allowing the grapes to express their terroir is the crux of his winemaking philosophy and is clearly evident in his maiden Tokara Sauvignon Blanc 2018.

A blend of fruit from prime Tokara vineyards in Stellenbosch and Elgin, this vibrant wine represents an intriguing spectrum of the Sauvignon Blanc flavour profile. Green melon, Granny Smith apple and subtle lemongrass, typical of the cooler Elgin site, meld seamlessly with tropical granadilla notes, more reminiscent of Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc.

Did you always want to be a winemaker? If not, what did you want to be when you were growing up?

I made the decision to pursue winemaking as a career when I was about sixteen. Up to and before that age I wanted to become a botanist.

If you were a wine, what would it be?

Hmmm, interesting question. I’d probably have to go with a Shiraz from a cooler climate – nicely rounded with a bit of spice to freshen things up and keep things lively.

What’s the most memorable wine you've ever tasted?

Once when I was in Germany, my importer at the time invited me to join a tasting of 1928 and 1929 Bordeaux wines. We tasted 12 wines that evening and the most memorable was a 1929 Chateau Ausone, which was a remarkably complete wine despite its age. It was a profound wine experience and one I will never forget.

What tastes remind you of your childhood?

I grew up in KwaZulu-Natal where there were plenty of fruit trees that grew wild in our garden. To this day the taste or smell of fresh guava takes me straight back to my childhood. Fresh guava and vanilla ice cream were a poolside hit on those balmy summer days.

What's your current favourite cultivar, and why?

Currently it’s Cabernet Sauvignon. It really is the king of red grapes in Stellenbosch. It makes exceptionally good wines and is a dream to work with in the winery.

What’s been the most exciting part of being part of the Tokara team so far?

I’m relishing working with some new wine styles, like our Méthode Cap Classique, which is sparkling wine made in the traditional French method. There are so many fantastic little projects to get excited about – plus I have the support of a great team and owners.

Which part of the world should every serious wine-lover visit?

That depends completely on the wine-lover’s personal tastes and preferences. South African wine tourism definitely ranks amongst the best in the world in terms of wines and experiences to be had, so I would first explore what we have to offer locally before looking abroad. Once you’ve done that you’ll find that you will fixate on a region’s wines for a period of a few months or even years. The logical next step would be to go to the region where the wine hails from to see what it’s all about. Nothing beats tasting a wine in the cellar or vineyard that it comes from.

What is your current favourite restaurant?

I am really enjoying the cuisine and experience at Marigold in Franschhoek. The depth of the flavours on offer is phenomenal and all in a wonderful setting.

What would your last meal – and last drink – be?

I think one’s last meal and drink is more about the people that you share it with than the actual food and wine. I would have a lovely seafood braai on the patio of a beach house with my nearest and dearest, complete with an endless supply of ice-cold Champagne.

Visit Tokara off the R310 Helshoogte Road, Banhoek Valley, Stellenbosch, and purchase wine from the estate at tokara.com.