The countdown really is on for this week’s New Wave South African tasting with winemakers heading to the UK to show their cutting edge wines. Leon Coetzee of Fledge & Co will be exhibiting for the first time and promises not just good wines to taste but to “crack a few jokes and talk the hind leg off a donkey if you drop by our stand”…you have been warned.
Leon Coetzee of Fledge & Co sums up this week’s New Wave South Africa tasting when he describes his own wines as being a “tad off piste, more elegantly inclined and each ‘n everyone has an interesting story to tell”. You will be able to find him on Dreyfus Ashby’s stand.
Why are you involved in the New Wave tasting – what are you particularly hoping to achieve?
Richard Kelley (MW) cohersed us into leaving the safe haven of the Klein Karoo & my braai fire to trek to the Mother Land (my mom’s of Scottish stock so not quite the real “Mother Land”, but close enough) to showcase our nest of hand crafted Cape wines to the good folk of London and surrounds.
Did you exhibit at the last New Wave tasting in 2015?
Unfortunately not, but we also only crafted about 300 cases of wine then and it was the first time we scaled up production incorporating 13 different varietals and 16 vineyards from across the length ‘n breadth of the Cape. We’re new to the DA cru. But we followed it all via social media and press and only heard good things of the event and are really looking forward to “gooi Steen” (pour Chenin) at the event.
There seems to be a camaraderie amongst winemakers in South Africa – is it something you feel aware of?
South Africans, in general, are quite an affable and gregarious nation and the wine fraternity is quite a small circle of folks, so you do get to know a few people along the way and make some connections other than just wine. If you need to find something out or have a question about a winemaking technique or number of that bloke who fixes pumps it’s literally only a phone call away. As our project involves sourcing fruit from across the length and breadth of the Cape we’ve got quite the cellphone bill, but also a place to braai and share a glass of wine in most places.
Who has been your greatest influence, both internationally and locally?
I’d have to say Oom Nico Vermuelen (of Ruitersvlei and Nico Vermeulen Wines), whom I did my first vintage with in 2007 fresh from completing my degree in management accounts – he threw me into the deep end and even had me licking stones in the vineyards to understand why certain blocks tasted differently and never got tired of answering my non-stop barrage of questions.
For Margaux, it has to be her grandfather, Oupa Danie, who was a true bon vivant, true blue Karoo farmer and who never found a bad wine – except once in Gascony. Also for us both, Michael Fridjhon deserves a special mention, as he is ridiculously generous with his time and is an incredible font of wine knowledge and has a “taste memory ” of note.
There are a good few international influencers, but we have to agree on Michael Chapoutier due in part to the sheer scope of his business, the number of wines he crafts & the diversity of varieties he works with and how he gets it all done. Nicolas Joly and Randall Grahm also rank way up there – but the list is long!
Have there been significant developments for you and your winery in the last year or two?
We’ve evolved quite a bit – basically from an embryo to an almost fully fledged velociraptor or at best a fuzzy ostrich chick. I’d say the most significant development we’ve made is learning more about the vines, vineyards and varieties each vintage and continually making incremental improvements which result in huge improvements in the wines. Also we’re finding out what works and what doesn’t.
How do you see the overall South African wine industry – what advances have been made?
That’s a bit of a challenging and a loaded question – as South Africa is such a diverse place and the wine industry also reflects this. You’ve got to understand change happens slowly in South Africa, but when it happens it occurs at a rapid rate. For instance, one day as a kid we went from an old fashioned “sling telephone” to the next day a dial-telephone previously only seen in the big city or on Dallas.
Quality has improved dramatically in South Africa, diversity of wine styles as well and, moreover, I think we’re finding out what works and where it works best. But it’s very much work in progress – but with some really good results and much more in store!
What challenges are there for you and the industry as a whole?
Bugger! The questions don’t get any easier. I’d have to say, stability is a critical issue which needs addressing in South Africa in general and inter alia the wine industry especially – as we’re in a long term industry where changes take at best 10 years to produce results, but more likely a generation. But, we’re South African, so challenges which are totally out of our control are par for the course & we thrive in adversity.
For us, I’d say diversity of varieties and getting more varieties which thrive in our climate and will craft interesting, noteworthy and enjoyable wines is critical.
How do you see the UK market? How important is to you and why?
It’s quite an important market, due to the fact that you folks enjoy wine and quite a few South Africans live there now. It’s an incredibly diverse market, where you’re spoilt for choice and as such a highly competitive market, but one which is quite open to fine South African wines and has come around to the quality offered by South African wines.
What other markets are opening up for you around the world?
We’re in Alberta, Canada; Osaka, Japan; Germany; Copenhage, Denmark and even Zambia – with a few more locations having expressed interest. I suspect it’s thanks in part to some “luck”, Instagram, word of mouth, folks tasting our wines and folks generally showing more interested and being excited by South Africa wines – as well as South Africans spread across the globe and folks being more adventurous!
Give us your elevator pitch why a buyer should come and taste your wines at the tasting?
At the Fledge & Co our pursuit is to craf an honest, decent drop from special vines scattered across the Cape. Our wines are a tad off piste, more elegantly inclined and each ‘n everyone has an interesting story. We’ll crack a few jokes, talk the hind leg off a donkey if you drop by our stand or at very least you’ll get an invite to a braai* – ask Richard Kelley it’s not a half bad invite to get.
- You can taste Leon Coetzee’s wines at the 2017 New Wave Tasting which is going to be held on Wednesday October 11 at Village Underground, 54 Holywell lane, Shoreditch, EC2A 3PQ from 10am until 6pm. To register to attend please email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the ONLINE REGISTRATION FORM