The man behind the wine - Lets Meet Mark Le Roux

The man behind the wine – Lets Meet Mark Le Roux

Who is making that amazing wine?

The mind behind the wine – Mark Le Roux. I had the opportunity to pick the brain of Waterford Estate’s winemaker. The wine he crafts is what is called Fine Wine – Fine Wine is a wine that transports the drinker to its place of origin, a wine that’s quality is unmatched and a wine that can stand the test of time.

Lets get into the mind of Mark Le Roux:

What does your normal day look like during harvest?

It’s an early morning for all winemakers during this time. I normally arrive at work around 6 am, and the first thing I do is make a coffee, watch the sunrise, and get the cellar organised. The first bin full of grapes comes in around 7 am and then it’s all hands on deck, we get the destemmer or the press set up, and we kick into gear. I run around a lot, smelling tanks, checking on ferments, checking on the presses, and checking barrels. Some days we will only go home after 9 pm or 10 pm. 


What is your favourite memory in harvest during your time at Waterford Estate?

It’s all a blur of fun… The gees, how everyone gets involved, the beer kegs, the late-night slip and slide while we wait for the press to finish with the Sauvignon blanc. It’s all about the energy during harvest time. Which is your favourite wine to make? Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s our signature, it showcases the farm and the terroir. It’s something I understand and can benchmark easily against some of the country’s best wine producers. 


How do you keep your Cellar team motivated during the harvest season?

Beer. We get a keg every year in the Cellar. “It takes a lot of beer to make great wine”. We keep the energy up, when your team is excited they want to be here the motivation will follow. We do have a lot of fun but we have to ensure that the work is being done and being done to the level that we want it to happen.
To give everyone an idea of what we are aiming to create we all get together to taste other wines during harvest, we chat about the wine, what everyone likes about it or dislikes about it, we keep the energy up and the morale high.  


What is your favourite Cellar action?

Top 3
1. I enjoy starting the press when we first bring in the white wines, the press has this siren that goes off and it lets you know that harvest has begun. It’s a lot of graft to get the press going so when it’s going, it feels like an achievement.

2. Starting a ferment – the ferment exposes the vulnerable side of wine, so that way you can see what’s happening as it gives you an idea of how the vintage is going to be. It makes my head spin thinking of what we’re picking tomorrow and what we’ve still got to do. 

3. Emptying the red wine ferment vessels in the press. Your heart rate starts increase, “have we got enough colour, enough tannin, have we left the wine on the skins for long enough, have we nursed the wine to where it needs to be before putting it to sleep in the barrel?” It’s a moment of reflection. What are you most looking forward to with the 2023 harvest? Our Pebble Hill block of Cabernet Sauvignon is really exciting me this year. We planted it back in 2018 and it is in its 3 rd vintage of grape production so the quality of grape and that particular block will start to shine through. Replanting this block was a part of our replant project. We are currently in the process of removing any virused vine from our vineyard, and are striving towards no viruses and clean material. This Pebble Hill block is one of the best sites that we have on the estate, it is the highest-altitude vine that we have – the soil profile is amazing and the quality of the fruit that we get out of it is next to none. 


What can we expect from the 2023 harvest?

It is still early days but the Chardonnay we harvested this year was really clean and some super high quality stuff. We harvested shortly after the heat so we are expecting a lot more richness in the wine and a softer acid, I would suspect we would find a little bit more of a yellow fruit profile rather than a fresh lemon fruit one.

The grapes for the rosé were also a very healthy, the crop was very clean. The picking of the grapes for the Rosé is done as a manicuring of our vines to best prepare our red varietals for ripening. Our Cabernet Franc is one of our best-performing vineyards since the beginning of the growing season. We don’t often do a 100% Cabernet Franc for the library collection but this year we definitely are!

The Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards all look amazing, the bunches have smaller berries which will lead to more concentrated flavours. When the Cabernet looks good it’s always exciting! The grapes are what I would call A1, this is probably the best I’ve seen it since the 2017 harvest.

The Grenache is an amazing varietal for us to work with, its consistency and easy of growing definitely makes the vine a favourite child.