We chat to Flagstone winemaker Gerhard Swart about childhood tastes, secret talents and his favourite cultivars
Posted: 22 December 2017
Flagstone’s head winemaker Gerhard Swart has had an excellent year. His Flagstone Writer’s Block Pinotage 2015 won five stars in Platter’s South African Wine Guide for 2018, Double Gold at the 2017 Veritas Wine Awards, and was named one of the Top 10 at the ABSA Pinotage Association Awards, together with being one of the top Pinotages at the SA Terroir Wine Awards. His most recent accolade? Being named Winemaker of the Year by the Wine of the Month Club. We caught up with this exceptionally talented winemaker, who hails from a family of Overberg farmers and believes that one should never stagnate: ‘You always have to be thinking about how you can stand out from the crowd. Be it more interesting labels, varieties or, like we do at Flagstone, combining particular terroirs to create wines that are intriguing and unique.’ Did you always want to be a winemaker? When I was in high school I was a member of the nature/hiking club and later on the chairperson for the club. We did many hikes in the mountains and during most school holidays we did a few five-day hikes in the Knysna area. I completely fell in love with the forest and eventually had to decide between Agriculture and Forestry. Agriculture and in the end, winemaking, won by a narrow margin. If you were a wine, what would it be? A Pinotage. You need to get to know me and understand me before you realise what potential I hold, just like Pinotage. What are the most memorable wines you've ever tasted? The sweet wines of Château d’Yquem in France, tasted in their impressive barrel hall. What tastes remind you of your childhood? The green fig preserve that my mom still makes (at the age of 82) and homemade marmalade. Do you have a secret talent? Not that I know of. I love surfing and mountain biking, and I am very handy with tools and fixing things. What are your current favourite cultivars, and why? I am very passionate about Pinotage and Chenin Blanc. I believe these two grape varieties are currently (and definitely in the future) very important for SA and building South Africa’s brand in the international wine industry. I try to taste as many wines as possible from these varieties. We’re hearing big things about how good the 2015 vintages are set to be. Would you agree that this is going to be an exceptional year for our wines? I do agree. The 2015 wines are very good and rated up there as one of the best in the past 10 years, with the 2009 vintages still at the top of the list. Which part of the world should every serious wine-lover visit? South Africa, of course. I love the Cape south coast and think it should be on everyone’s bucket list. What is your current favourite restaurant? I prefer to spend time at home making food with my family rather than eating out because it allows us to spend quality time together, which is quite scarce for me. What would your last meal – and last drink – be? A good piece of matured rump steak, grilled on the braai, with my wife’s grilled vegetables and a glass (in fact, preferably a bottle) of Flagstone Writer’s Block Pinotage. Visit flagstonewines.com for more information.