I grew up in the world-renowned surfing paradise of Jeffreys Bay, a coastal town situated in the beautiful Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
From a young age I’ve always been intrigued by the beauty of nature and all its complexities, and this led me to studying Forestry at the Saasveld College in George. It was here where I became intrigued by winemaking through my roommate’s family’s involvement in the industry. After I completed my studies, I came to the realisation that a full time career on a forest plantation was not exactly what I wanted to do.
An extended six-month harvest stint at Slanghoek Cellar in Rawsonville was followed by another six-month tenure at the famous Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate in California in the USA, and needless to say, I was hooked!
Upon my return to South Africa, I enrolled for my winemaking studies at the Elsenburg College. It was during this period, while working a harvest at the Koelenhof Cellar outside Stellenbosch, where I met my current day mentor, Beyers Truter.
Known as the “Pinotage King” of South Africa, he played a profound role in evoking a deep love and understanding of the Pinotage grape varietal within me.
I’m a firm believer that my forestry background helped me tremendously with my winemaking skills, as both fields focus on the relationship between plant, soil and the sun for optimal production.
Nature has always been at the centre of my life’s decisions, and is the ultimate guide when it comes to viticulture – knowing which cultivars suit which slopes, soil and altitudes best.
My winemaking ethos is based on three pillars:
Francois Van Niekerk Pinotage
High Resolution Pack Shot
Fact Sheet - Pinotage 2020
Fact Sheet - Pinotage 2019
Abundance written in the soil
The grapes are sourced from two very special, but distinctly different vineyards sites – 50% from the Agter Paarl region and 50% from Wellington. Each of these dryland parcels have their roots in heavily textured shale soils, and are vinified seperately before being blended together.
Both vineyards produce a low yield of 6 to 7 tons per hectare. The perfectly formed bush vines allow optimal sunlight on the grape cluster, resulting in even ripening. The Paarl component produces a big, heavily structured wine, while the Wellington portion lends a soft and rounded red fruit tone to the final blend.
Nurturing nature’s secrets
The wine is made in open fermenters, with regular punch-downs of the cap every two hours – this helps to maintain a homogenous temperature of +- 27 degrees Celsius during fermentation, and avoids the extraction of unwanted, harsh phenolics at higher temperatures. Time on the skins is short – 5 to 7 days, depending on the vintage.
After fermentation, the wine is transferred into 225L French oak barrels made from carefully selected wood from the Troncais forest. Malolactic fermentation takes place in a combination of 70% new and 30% second fill barrels. This combination of new and used oak ensures sufficient aroma complexity and tannin extraction, without overpowering the varietal- and terroir characteristics of the wine. The wine is matured in these same barrels for a period of 24 months.
Awards & Ratings
Francois van Niekerk Pinotage 2020
Concours Mondial Bruxelles 2022 – Gold Medal
Gilbert & Gaillard International Challenge 2022 – 93 points
Francois van Niekerk Pinotage 2019
Platter’s Guide 2022 – 5*
Veritas Awards 2021 – Gold Medal
ABSA Top 10 Pinotage 2021 – Top 10 Winner
Decanter World Wine Awards 2021 – 96 points / Gold Medal
winemag.co.za / Prescient Pinotage Report 2021 – Top 10 / 92 points / Discovery of the Report (which serves to recognise previously unsung wines)
National Wine Challenge 2021 – Top 100 SA Wines / Double Platinum
Gilbert & Gaillard International Challenge 2021 – 93 points
Raymond Noppé CWM – 96 points