Winemaker Alicia Rechner is a graduate of Stellenbosch University and has been working at one of South Africa’s best-known wineries, Backsberg, for many years. We chatted to her about her career as a winemaker as well as her most memorable tastes, favourite wine cultivars and more.
did you always want to be a winemaker? If not, what did you want to be when you were growing up?
No, I never thought I would be a winemaker. I always wanted to be a fashion designer. My absolute favourite hobby was cutting and sewing clothes for my Barbie dolls.
if you were a wine, what would it be?
I would be a well-aged Champagne. Very fizzy and busy, but with a solid golden colour and nutty notes. Self-preserved by carbon dioxide, never to expire in that bottle and able to be matched with several types of occasions.
what’s the oddest – or most memorable – wine you’ve ever tasted?
The wines of Greece were some of the oddest, yet most memorable wines I have tasted. Odd, since they are not totally pleasant, but memorable, since you end up drinking so much of it!
what tastes remind you of your childhood?
Granadilla ice lollies (the kind with the pips in them), melon mixed with ice cream balls and last but not least, grass and siering flowers (those small and delicate yellow flowers with a sour taste). The latter make me remember having hours to lie around staring at the lawn, watching the ants and bugs scurry about.
do you have a secret talent?
I am able to see things coming, slightly better than most. It is not a secret talent but an intuition we all have. I am just very aware and in touch with mine. It turns into a talent or gift when you learn to trust it. This allows me to be slightly more prepared for situations than I would have been otherwise.
what’s your current favourite cultivar, and why?
Merlot. It is such a pleasure to work with. It can go either way, from being fruity to heavy and just fits in easily in any style. It has very few demands and it behaves well during harvest; both on the vine and in tank and barrel. Since it needs so little intervention, it feels like the most natural wine.
which part of the world should every serious wine-lover visit?
I would have to say Bordeaux, but when I had the chance to go to Bordeaux, my husband and I stayed on the train and carried on to Spain! So I am not the serious wine-lover you would be able to trust with this answer. However, the wine country I love the most would definitely be the Moselle Valley in Germany. I worked in a little town called Leiwen and this was my far my best harvest ever. The people and place was beautiful. It was just perfect. The wines are fantastic and the people are so serious about terroir. It was amazing to be there. It would be difficult to really understand a wine culture if you do not spend real time in the cellar or in the vineyard. I have only ever spent a good amount of time in Australia, Germany and South Africa, and I am sure there are places in each wine country that would be very special. I love travelling but enjoy the culture more than the product and I always see the product differently once I know or understand the culture. So I guess I am saying…. a very serious wine-lover does not need to go very far to find real meaning. They can go anywhere that makes wine and finds value in the experience. I suppose it depends on what you are looking for.
what is your current favourite restaurant?
I love Dutchies on Grotto Beach in Hermanus. I love the low trees and of course the view. The food and wines are fantastic. When I feel tired or frustrated at work, I just close my eyes and imagine I am there. Instant pick-me-up.
what would your last meal – and last drink – be?
A chicken wrap and salad with avocado, chickpeas and a creamy sauce paired with a large glass of white wine. Then, I hope I am allowed desert, I’d like crème brûlée in a large bowl; not those tiny ramekins. I am getting so nervous now, thinking about a last meal… maybe ice cream with the crème brûlée and then a cappuccino and Quality Street chocolates and Cape Velvet Liqueur.
Visit Backsberg at Simondium Road, Klapmuts. Contact +27 21 875 5141 for enquiries or +27 21 875 5952, email@example.com for the restaurant.