Drinks, food

celebrating women in creativity: award-winning winemaker carla pauw

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Run by one of South Africa's few independent female winemakers, Saltare in Stellenbosch has become synonymous with quality. At its helm, Carla Pauw creates elegant Methode Cap Classique and wines, carefully fermented using natural methods from five different grape parcels across the Western Cape. As each vineyard tells a story, so too does each of Carla's vintages.

Searching for direction and a field that didn't designate a regular nine-to-five structure, Carla gained degrees in physical movement and town and regional planning, but while working part-time at Morgenhof Wine Estate’s tasting room, life allotted her a new course. 'I discovered I have a great nose for wine. Morgenhof was one of the first cellars to have a female winemaker, and this motivated me to study viticulture and oenology,' says Carla.

creating award-winning wines

After harvests in Stellenbosch, Bordeaux, New Zealand and Spain, Carla made wine for Anura Vineyards for eight years, raking in numerous top awards for the winery (including trophies at the prestigious Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show and Best Red Wine at the 2005 SAA Wine Selection). Her wines have also won several Double Gold awards at the Michelangelo and Veritas Wine Awards.

But it was her dream of making her own MCC that shaped her future. ‘I wanted to stay true to the genuine Champagne method of making sparkling wines, which meant an authentically brut (dry) sparkling wine. At the time, most sparkling wines in South Africa had a sweet taste.'

During her first MCC vintage, Carla invited her friends to help pick the grapes. Placed in a basket press, the harvest was 'danced upon' while squeezing the juice from the fruit. The celebration thus inspired her to call her label Saltare, Latin for ‘to dance’. Since 2010 she has devoted all her time to Saltare. 'The name reflects movement, grace, simplicity – and joy. No more dancing on grapes these days, but with each new press, the celebration of that first harvest continues.'

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holistic approach

'Our vineyards each tell a story about the hands that tend and keep them. The MCC vineyards – particularly the Chardonnay – are farmed using a holistic approach. The soil is treated as a living entity with respect given to all the complex interactions between micro-organisms, minerals, oxygen, nitrogen and plants, resulting in amazing development in grape quality, volume and consistency.'

Since 2015, Carla has also been tending a small Pinot Noir vineyard for the Saltare Cap Classique in Somerset West. She practices organic principles, only spraying copper and sulphur in the vineyard and using no pesticides or herbicides. A bed of hay mulch helps to improve soil quality.

'As for winemaking practices, we use various biodynamic practices including harvesting or processing grapes and bottling according to the biodynamic calendar of Southern Africa.'

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minimal impact

Following the philosophy of minimal intervention in the cellar, the Saltare Chenin Blanc and Syrah ferment in barrels with wild yeasts only – no commercial yeasts are added. When wines need to be moved or racked, gravity is used rather than pumps. 'I am sensitive to sulphur, so all Saltare wines contain very low levels of sulphur,' shares Carla. The Saltare Brut Nature is one of South Africa's few zero- dosage bubblies, as no additional sugar or sulphur is added during disgorging.

Saltare's cellar is located along the banks of the Eerste River close to the centre of Stellenbosch, with the tasting studio across the river in 'The Avenue', 30 Die Laan, in the heart of the historic town. For more information and wine orders visit saltarewines.co.za