Erika Obermeyer from Graham Beck Vineyards in
erika_obermeyer_winner2008.jpg Franschhoek was crowned SA Woman Winemaker of the Year in Somerset West at the Lord Charles Hotel on Thursday 24th Of July. Erika beat a record number of 63 entries in this year’s competition, which is sponsored by the Landbouweekblad, the country’s leading agriculture and agri-business publication.

Erika impressed the judges with her The Joshua 2006, a blend of 95% Shiraz and 5% Viognier. When asked why she decided on winemaking as a career choice, she said: “I grew up on a sheep farm, outside Sutherland, and nature has always been in my blood. In winemaking I discovered a career path where I could combine my passion for science with that of nature, I wanted to become a doctor, but then I went on a wine tour with some friends at university, and realised I belong in a wine cellar.” Erika completed her Honors degree in wine biotechnology at the University of Stellenbosch. “My winemaking style is to really capture the essence of the vineyard in the bottle. Work with what you’ve got and don’t force the wine. In the cellar you have the tools to shape what the vineyard gives you into a beautiful wine, but for this you need to know your vines really well,” she explains. Erika started working at Graham Beck in 2005, and also boasts vintages in Sancerre, St-Emillion and Beziers.

Besides Obermeyer the five finalists for this year’s SA Woman Winemaker of the Year were: (in alphabetical order)

  • Corlea Fourie from Bosman Family Vineyards in Wellington, who impressed with her Optenhorst 2007 Chenin Blanc, made from .56 year old bush vines,
  • Rianie Strydom, from Haskell Vineyards in Stellenbosch who made the top six with her 2006 Dombeya Boulder Road Shiraz,
  • Mari van der Merwe from Diemersdal Estate in Durbanville with her 2007 Chardonnay Reserve..
  • Danelle van Rensburg from Van Loveren Vineyards in Robertson who made the line up with her 2007 Wolverine Creek Shiraz, and
  • Jocelyn Wilson from La Bri in Franschhoek with her 2007 Shiraz and Viognier blend.

Besides judging the quality of their wines, the judges also subjected each of the six finalists’ to a personal interview to gain insight into the winemakers’ long-term objectives, winemaking philosophy and their views on the industry.

According to Marilyn Cooper, head of the Cape Wine Academy and president of the judging panel, Erika shone. “Erika impressed with her Shiraz in a year where the competition was dominated by very high quality Shiraz entries. She is confident, and passionate about the wine industry, and not only an inspiration for future woman winemakers, but anyone who is considering winemaking as a career.”

Besides Cooper, this year’s judges were, Susan Wessels, the winner of last year’s competition and winemaker at Vrede & Lust, Jo-Ann Mettler, PRO at L’Ormarins, Cathy Marston, owner of The Nose Wine Bar and Restaurant in Cape Town and Riëtte Rust, well known wine writer.

Lorraine Immelman-Steyn, founder and organizer of the SA Woman Winemaker of the Year Competition, further says: “The number of entries is increasing annually, and we are attracting woman winemakers from large, established cellars right down to smaller wineries in more offbeat wine regions.” “I am very excited about the competitions growth; the number of entrants this year proves that the title of Landbouweekblad South African Winemaker of the year is becoming more important to woman winemakers.”

In the light of the fact that women in the wine industry are enjoying increasingly more recognition worldwide, this competition plays an important role in the motivation of all women – not only those on the brink of entering the wine industry. It shows that women can excel in any job, if they have the necessary determination, knowledge and skill, they can reach their goals – even in a so called “men’s world”.

“An awareness of these ambassadors leads to the promotion of the multi-faceted nature of the wine industry and follows in the popularity of Champagne Lanson Woman in Wine Award presented annually at the International Wine and Spirits Fair, as well as the Shoprite-Checkers Woman of the Year Award.”

Each finalist receives a pamper package from the Lanzerac Wellness Centre and Spa to the value of R1000, as well as a gift pack of Spiegelau crystal stemware and a decanter worth R2 500 from Distinctive Brands

The winner will receive an all expenses paid trip to the winemaking region of Bordeaux, valued at R30 000.

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