South Africa has been hit particularly badly by the Covid-19 crisis with a series of lockdowns and bans on alcohol putting many wine companies out of business and the loss of many jobs. Including some of the most prominent winemakers in the country. Here the highly respected Johan Delport shares his story and why he is now looking for a new winery or winemaking role, both in South Africa and around the world, having lost his job at Waverley Hills in the latest in our Onwards & Upwards series.
The Buyer’s Onwards & Upwards series looks to give a platform to people in the drinks, hospitality and retail sectors that have lost their jobs due to Covid-19. Here’s Johan Delport story and what he hopes to offer any winery in what he hopes will be a new winemaker’s role.
Tell us about yourself and how you got into wine?
I grew up in the Breede Valley in the Western Cape, which is the largest wine producing area in South Africa. Due to this I always had an interest in agriculture and wine in particular. For me it was a natural progression to get involved in agriculture and to settle and make a living in a winemaking region.
You have had a wide and varied career as a winemaker – what are some of the highlights?
Every vintage is a highlight and every time someone tells you that they enjoyed the wine you made is a highlight to me. Personal achievements over the years have included making and bottling the first single variety Grenache in South Africa in 2001. Since then I have been known in the South African wine industry as the ‘Godfather of Grenache’.
For the past 12 years I have focused on making certified organic wines and has developed a reputation as a maker of premium, quality organic wines. In 2018 one of the wines I made – Waverley Hils Shiraz/Mouvedre/ Viognier 2013 – was awards the Organic Trophy at the International Wine & Spirits Competition.
The organic wines I have made have also reformed very well against conventional wines in competitions in South Africa, like the Waverley Hills Shiraz/Mouvedre/ Viognier 2010 that was awarded the Best Red Wine at the Michelangelo International Wine Awards and the Shiraz 2015 that was awarded the best Shiraz at the South African Young Wine Show.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced as a winemaker – and examples of how you have got over them?
Every vintage has its challenges, because you cannot make wine according to a recipe. The only way to get over the daily challenges you face making wine is to be hands on, to never stop monitoring the wines during the production processes and giving attention to detail.
The biggest challenges though is selling the wines. That is the difficult part, to find the right and sustainable markets for your wines and being able to keep supplying those markets and trying to grow it. This is an ongoing challenge and one you never really over come, you just keep working hard at it. Hard work is the only secret to success.
You have been at Waverley for 12 years – can you summarise what you have tried to do with the wines there and some highlights/ achievements you are proud of?
Over the past 12 years the Waverley hills brand has been established as a premium quality, certified organic wine range. It is the most awarded organic wine brand in South Africa. What I managed to achieve was to make organic wines that can compete with any other wine, organic or not, in terms of quality and acceptability by the customers.
The first Marselan vineyard in South Africa was planted at Waverley Hills four years ago through a project driven by me. In 2020 I made the first Marselan wine from this vineyard, which was the first in the history of South Africa.
What sort of winemaking/ winery role are you looking for?
Since the retrenchment of myself, and the rest of the staff at Waverley Hills, I have been considering any options in regards to wine production and/or winery management. Both of these roles I have a lot of experience in. I am looking for anything that I can add value to, through my experience as a head winemaker and manager of wine estates and wineries.
I have always been a very ambitious person, with a strategically tuned mindset, to add value to a business and make the working environment better for everyone.
Does it need to be in South Africa?
No, I am also looking at possibilities anywhere in the world and i am prepared to relocate.
How would you summarise your personality and the kind of company you would like to share that with?
I am the type of person that works well together with all different kinds of people on all levels, and likes to lead by my example. I have a good work ethic and like to add value to the company I work for. I would like to share my knowledge and personality with a business that is established in the wine industry and would like to grow, or an ambitious wine company that would like to built a good reputation for itself in the industry.
What ambitions do you have for your next role?
To make a difference to the place and people I work with. To grow the brand for the benefit of everyone involved.
Anything else you would like to say?
My experience in the production, certification, marketing and administration of organic wines gives me an extra trade incentive for a consumer world that is speedily focussing more on sustainable produced products and wines.
- If you would like to contact Johan about any opportunities then please do so on email at email@example.com.
- IF you are looking for a new role due to Covid-19 and would like to share your story on The Buyer then please contact Richard Siddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.