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#VinoPeople: Madeleine Stenwreth MW

31 May 2021  -

Madeleine's wine journey started with an aim to become one of the first Swedish sommeliers. After winning ”The most Promising Sommelier in Scandinavia” contest, she received several scholarships and travels throughout the world’s vineyards followed. Driven by an eagerness to further expand her wine horizons she moved to South Africa in 1997. 

Described as a "master taster" and a "big inspirator" by international winery clients, Madeleine Stenwreth brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. Qualifying as a Master of Wine in 2008, her dissertation "The effect of altitude on Malbec in Mendoza" earned her the Quinta do Noval Award. 

Looking at her years of experience, spanning over 3 decades, it's clear that Madeleine has a rare perspective gained through hard work as restaurant manager, sommelier, marketing manager, wine buyer, product development manager and wine judge. She was the restaurant manager and head sommelier at the iconic Grande Roche in Paarl back in 1997 and 1998 before heading back to Sweden where she started up the Swedish office for Wines of South Africa (WOSA) in 2002. From 2004 to 2007 she worked as wine buyer for the Swedish alcohol retail monopoly, Systembolaget, which was following by working with winemakers all over the world with the aim of improving style and quality while optimizing the potential for success across various markets.

Since 2010, she has focused on sharing her knowledge, passion and experience in various fields as freelance consultant in the global wine industry. "I make myself exclusively available to specific projects – wherever in the world they may take me – and am entrusted by many clients to deliver hands-on, honest consultancy that can really make a difference."  

Madeleine has spent the better part of the last 6 months in South Africa and planning to make South Africa more of a base for her future.  She has been intimately engaged with the South African Wine industry for the last 27 years and after spending time during the 2021 harvest at Sijnn, Avondale, Glenelly, Gabrielskoof, Crystallum,  Klein Constantia and de Grendel,and meeting up with an additional big chunk of similarly really great winemakers/producers during her extended visit, she found she really wanted to spend more time here working with wineries to help them find their own identity.

One of the highlights of her time here was the Cap Classique tasting in December 2020, where she was able to give detailed feedback on every wine to each producer in a lineup of almost 50 wines.

A recent project with Kleine Zalze saw Madeleine taste through older vintages of the Family Reserve range, to evaluate the condition of the wines but also to gain insights on style development and maturation potential over the years.

"Madeleine did an excellent job and delivered a very detailed report at the end of two days of tasting, re-tasting and a lot of discussion. We specifically value her honest and direct, but respectful feedback and her ability to describe wines in her own unique and insightful way. There is always the danger of developing a “cellar palate” and having Madeleine on board really helped us to keep an open mind and listen to recommendations that might help to be more market related, without sacrificing uniqueness and character" , said Kleine Zalze owner, Kobus Basson. ''She has no hidden agenda, and is helping South Africa in its continued refinement of its offering into the premium sector''

Daphne Neethling from Paardenkloof in Bot River had this to say about Madeleine's time with them:
''PaardenKloof Estate specializes in single vineyard single varietal wines, so it is vital that we reflect the unique character of our terroir and the quality of our grapes in every bottle.
Madeleine has skillfully, and with great talent and charm, assisted us to develop and perfect the style of wine which can express the true sense of place with purity and honesty.
Our journey together allowed us to explore and optimize the potential of our exceptional mountainous vineyards''.

''Madeleine's passion for South Africa, her extensive international knowledge and incredible palate are just a few of the reasons we at Kaapzicht have decided to bring her into the team. For us she is a sound platform to bounce ideas off blends and wine styles.  In just a few short weeks she has helped us to polish and fine-tune our style which I am hoping will lead to more and more success for us.  A fantastic partnership from our side. We are super stoked to have her helping us out'' - says the very happy Danie Steytler Jnr.

Madeleine is a supportive and inspirational sounding board to winemakers on style and quality, with a balancing reference to global trends and potentially new consumer targets, while maintaining respect to sense of place and brand identity. 

''I prefer working on a long-term basis within a team and not aiming to be a consultant with a ‘come and go quick-fix attitude´.'' says Madeleine. "There is a fighting spirit in the people of South Africa which I love. I enjoy the thrill of taking on challenges and seeing success after putting in time and effort into brands that I know have the potential to optimise their offerings. I like to identify the personality of the place and to zoom in on each producer to find their uniqueness. I have seen the increase in the quality and refinement of South African wines over the many years of my experience and am very excited to help take them to the next level.''

If anyone is interesting in engaging with Madeleine, contact her on email

Madeleine has spent a lot of time with various industry key personalities

Back: Kalissa de Kock, Andre Morgenthal, Marinus Potgieter, Ian Naude, Lorraine Geldenhuys, Madeleine Stenwreth

Front: Cathy van Zyl, Rosa Kruger