Keeping Up With De Grendel

When a conversation takes place in a cellar . . .

Drinking wine is a ritual that dates back to ancient times, as we would say in Afrikaans, ‘so oud soos die berge’, which literally translates to ‘as old as the majestic mountains’. The origin story of wine can be traced back to Ancient Persia. Even in South Africa, the first vines were planted by Dutch settlers in 1655.

Over the centuries, more vines were planted, and more cellars were built to practise the art of making wine. An art that has now become a pillar of excellence in South Africa. 

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of visiting De Grendel’s cellar and sharing a glass of wine with its Cellar Master, Charles Hopkins, who describes himself as a lifelong student of wine. At De Grendel, winemaking is about a careful balance between science and art. And you sense this as you walk through its cellar. 

It’s also the perfect place to ask questions over a glass of wine -questions which De Grendel’s talented winemaker, Morgan Steyn, also graciously answered.  

What is one of your fondest memories that involve a glass of wine? 

Charles: There are wonderful memories with family and friends at a beach house, on the stoep on a cool evening with a glass of De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc, Op Die Berg Chardonnay or Koetshuis, or a light Pinot Noir and a nice seafood dish. One of my most specialist memories is with our Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. The wine was served at my daughter’s wedding [Marciel Hopkins], and the wine was particularly amazing on the day – probably due to all of the emotions on the day!


Morgan: My fondest memories don’t date back too far. Instead, I cherish the moments when I share special/older wines I have acquired alongside my family and friends, usually accompanied by a great meal.


What phase of winemaking do you enjoy the most, and what aspect keeps surprising you?

Charles: To plant new vineyards in new areas like Ceres and speculate what the outcome will be, and then to finally witness it be a success for our Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. One of the most significant aspects is to take a young, rough, hard red wine, put it in oak, and see how it looks 3, 6, 9 and 12 months after and how it turns into a refined and smooth wine.


Morgan: Harvest is the most fascinating time of year, I think, for every winemaker. For me, mainly, it’s because harvest is the one time in a year when you get to incorporate what the season has given you to make a great wine. As seasons and climates change, the grape itself changes, too, and you, as a winemaker, have to adapt to these changes. I am constantly surprised by how wine changes over time, in the vats, in the bottle, and as it ages.  

If someone wants to introduce their palate to wine, what is a good variety to start with and why?

Charles: Sauvignon Blanc. It has so many facets: fruity, mesmerising, dry. There are so many different styles of Sauvignon Blanc. It’s truly the most popular cultivar wine in South Africa.

Morgan: Pinot Noir. It’s light, however, still serious, has fine tannins, is vibrant, elegant, and has a tinge of perfumy florals. These true varietal characteristics make it less intimidating as a red variety.


What is the perfect way of enjoying any bottle of De Grendel?

Charles: There are times when you enjoy it on your own when you may need some me time, but the greatest way to enjoy wine is when family and friends meet and rub shoulders, enjoy a glass of wine, and talk about life and positive things.

Morgan: The perfect way to enjoy any bottle of De Grendel would be with someone special. However, ultimately, De Grendel wines can be enjoyed through the good, bad, and ugly. So, whatever the occasion may be, there is always a wine in our range that can suit that occasion.