For Danielle Coetsee, Cap Classique Winemaker at Boschendal Winery in South Africa, the idea of winemaking came to her at 11 years of age. Awarded Women Winemaker of the Year at the 2020 South Africa Wine and Spirits Awards Coetsee crafts premium sustainable wines. Boschendal Winery leads with environmental conservation and creates wines with a new-world attitude, balanced with elegance, uniqueness and finesse.
About Boschendal Wine Farm
Boschendal is the second oldest South African Winery with a history spanning three centuries The winery aims to produce high-quality, sustainable wines that embody the best of South Africa Winelands. Located in the picturesque Drakenstein Valley between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek the area has a cooler climate ideal for premium wine growing. With a commitment to biodiversity and regenerative farming practices, Boschendal is one of only 38 Conservation Champion wineries in South Africa. The wine farm also has a farm-to-table dining philosophy for their on-site restaurants and markets, has gorgeous gardens to walk through and have picnics, an art gallery, and boasts beautiful historic cottages as accommodations.
About Her Journey
“We [South Africa] have a concentration of flavour and fruit in our wines, but we also have depth, complexity, and texture. We have wines that tell stories.”
Inspired to be a winemaker by her uncle, Coetsee was drawn to his tales of studying winemaking and viticulture from Elsenburg. She went on to study viticulture and enology at Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute in South Africa. After her first harvest, her passion and intrigue for winemaking fully took bloom and she has never looked back. Producing award-winning sparkling wines, she is living her dream at Boschendal Winery.
“Many people do not know that South Africa has been producing wine for more than 350 years! We are currently in the most exciting period for South African wine. The velocity at which South African wine has grown as a world-class, premium-wine producer in the last twenty years, has been meteoric,” explains Coetsee.
Developing Her Palate
A master of her craft with a sophisticated palate, Danielle Coetsee has been influenced by incredible wines from around the world. Wines like a 2010 Chateau de Myrat Sauternes Grand Cru, a 2007 Costers del Siurana Priorat Miserere, a 2013 AA Badenhorst White Blend and of course, the 2008 Boschendal Jean Le Long have all helped her stay curious and develop her sense and balance of taste as she crafts wines vintage after vintage.
She believes that the first step to building a really great palate is by being curious about a diversity of wines. She also believes that one should be open to all of the tastes and profiles in the world of wine and taste and learn on a regular basis. “You should also have a soundboard of colleagues to bounce your interpretations and feedback on, especially those who share their knowledge and experiences very freely, so you can all learn and grow” she shares.
“Meticulous attention to detail and a “kick-ass palate” are cornerstones to sound winemaking,” says Coetsee. “Having a ‘kick-ass palate’ means moving beyond the judgement of a wine based on personal preference. It means appreciating a wine for the style, origin/terroir and time that it took to be vinified. Essentially, to reach a point where you are able to appreciate the journey that the wine has taken, regardless of if it is a wine that you would buy for yourself. “
A lover of great taste and all in the name of research, her most memorable wine and food pairing was Andouillette (a tripe sausage, that represents just two percent of French charcuterie production) – and Champagne while travelling in Epernay, France. Andouillette is a traditional French sausage originating from the Champagne region. Some say that it dates back to the 9th century when it was first served for King Louis II’s banquet feast. Her adventurous palate recalls the fascinating pairing of sparkling wine with an unforgettable style of food.
The Craft of Winemaking
A winemaker and lover of sparkling wine, each vintage leaves her with new lessons and learnings.
“Every vintage and every wine has its own challenges. Through winemaking you learn quickly that you get out what you put in, winemaking has taught me to be patient. Learning and developing your skills and gaining experience is the best teacher of knowing where the balance is in working with wines,” says Coetsee.
Enthused and passionate about South African wines, she is inspired by the region in which she works and the style of wines she makes. “I believe people will be ecstatic with the results for becoming more curious about South African wines. Our vintage Blanc de Blanc Cap Classique (traditional method sparkling wine) spends 10 years developing on the lees before being released.” Produced like a fine Champagne Boschendal Cap Classique wines have finesse and elegance.
“The reward of striving to make great wines also lies in its biggest challenge. For me, this means managing the influences of seasonal fluctuations to ensure each vintage’s grapes have the best chance of producing the highest quality wine. Consistent improvements, even if they seem small, accumulate, and become impactful changes over time. A challenge is also in finding the balance,” states Coetsee.
Many people might not know that South Africa has been producing wine for more than 350 years. A new-world region with old-world inspiration, the wines coming out of the region are world-class and priced right. “I want to see Boschendal Cap Classique continue to grow and be enjoyed around the world,” says Coetsee.“The journey that South African wines take you on once you start exploring the different producers, regions, and styles, is epic. And one that I hope many will endeavour to take.”
Coetsee embraces the changes and unexpected curve balls that sometimes mother nature can throw at you. “The older I get the more I realize that making wine and growing and tending to vineyards to make great vintages, is not as much art or science as is it connection and truly understanding your product. This means understanding your vines, your teams, where and which products you use in the process.”
Her unabridged bucket list includes travelling to British Columbia to go hiking and salmon fishing. Heading to Morocco, to visit Casablanca and Marrakesh and also, to take a hot air balloon over the landscape (fairy chimneys) of Cappadocia, Turkey.