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Q&A with Timothy Witbooi the man behind Lourensford's SMV


29 November 2018  -  Lourensford Estate

The Lourensford Limited Release SMV, a delectable blend of Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Viognier, is one of the estate’s most highly awarded and popular wines, and the winemaker wielding the magic wand is Timothy Witbooi.

You are an integral part of the winemaking team and Lourensford Estate, and the ever popular and awarded SMV is your baby. Tell us about your journey with the blend?
The aim is to produce a Rhône style blend which expresses our unique, cool climate terroir. The first vintage was the 2008 and it was a challenge to get the blend percentages to show the best of what each cultivar had to offer. Subsequent vintages remained challenging but as the vineyards grew older they became more stable and the fruit profile of the wines became more consistent from vintage to vintage - the grapes in the blend originate from some of our oldest vineyards: the Shiraz vineyard is 18 years old, the Mourvèdre 16 and the Viognier 17.

What are you looking for in the blend and which varietal tends to dominate?
Shiraz is definitely the dominant varietal each year. It important that the quality of the blend is consistent from vintage to vintage, so the three cultivars have to combine harmoniously; when the blend percentages are not correct, they tend to clash and then it is back to the drawing board for me!

Which is your favourite vintage of the SMV?
The 2013 vintage stands out as a very difficult vintage, but with a very rewarding end result. The wine has succulent, ripe fruit flavours with a very firm tannin structure and a huge palate weight which greatly enhances the potential for age-ing. The amount of sunlight and rain which our decomposed granite soils received during the 2012 – 2013 growing season was just perfect and this resulted in a very special SMV.

Why is this wine so popular with wine lovers and wine judges?
The Lourensford Limited Release SMV is an extremely versatile product which shows amazing purity and freshness of fruit combined with beautiful oak maturation flavours. The three cultivars work extremely well together and the result is an immensely complex, layered wine. When our SMV is tasted, there is something special about the wine, making the taster want to have another sip.

What made you decide to follow a career in the wine industry?
I grew up in a home where wine was enjoyed at dinner time and this sparked my interest. At school I enjoyed Physical Science and Chemistry and I have always had a strong connection with nature. I also have a creative side, thus winemaking seemed like a perfect fit.

Your qualifications and when did you join Lourensford?
I completed my National Diploma in Agriculture (2006) at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Wellington campus, with Viticulture as my major. I joined the Lourensford team as a student in my final year of study, on 16 February 2005. When the harvest was complete, they offered me a permanent position at the cellar.

Tell us about your personal life?
I am 41 years old and have been married for six wonderful years to my beautiful wife, Erin. We have a son, Joshua, who is two and we are privileged to live on the picturesque Lourensford Estate. We are a family who loves nature and the great outdoors, so most weekends and holidays you will find us exploring the mountains.

Who are the biggest influences on your winemaking?
Many people have played a role in paving my journey. My mentors include Philip Costandius, Charl Theron, Chris Joubert, Hannes Nel and Koos Jordaan - to these people I am eternally grateful.

What is your winemaking philosophy?
I am passionate about creating natural, pure fruit driven wines which are balanced and complex to be enjoyed throughout the world. I really love my occupation and it is an honour for me to guide the process from grape to bottle with as little as possible intervention, to allow the true terroir of the grapes to be expressed through the wines.

The SMV recently received 93 points in Tim Atkin’s South Africa 2018 Special Report, Silver in the Decanter World Wine Awards 2018 and Gold in Vitis Vinifera 2018.

The 2009 vintage was the first to be recognized with an international award achieving Silver, Best in Class at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2011. The SMV has subsequently received Bronze in the International Wine Challenge 2013, a 2014 Gold and 2017 Double Gold at the Michelangelo Awards and Gold in Vitis Vinifera 2017. The SMV has also scored over 90 points in Tim Atkin’s South Africa Special Report for three consecutive years.

The SMV 2015 is available online from Lourensford.co.za or the tasting room, open Monday to Sunday 9am until 5pm. For more information or to join the conversation follow Lourensford on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.