Meeting and remembering one of many quality winemakers can be quite challenging for both the trade and the wine media on the one hand and the wine consumer on the other hand. However, sometimes to whichever of the aforementioned target groups you belong, there are a selected few of these wine-crafting artisans that make an unforgettable impression on you as an individual … to remain there for a very long time, if not forever. They are indeed special … everyone in his or her individual uniqueness.
A true craftsman
Listening to, and observing Johan Joubert – the celebrated Cellar Master of Boland Cellar – leaves you slightly perplexed. His extensive experience in producing acclaimed wines are widely respected. However, it’s his intense modesty and sincere desire to craft exceptional wines that really impress. His love and respect for the natural ingredients provided by nature stand out, which is why he loves to elaborate about vital elements such as the specific soil types, climate and acidity/Ph levels.
To better understand Johan’s exceptional craftsmanship as a winemaker necessitates a look at where he comes from and what his track record says. It is not surprising that he was born on a family wine farm on the banks of the Breede River area where his father was the winemaker. From a young age his father as his mentor induced him to the art and craft of understanding the wine grape.
After school he pursued his passion and he progressed to Elsenburg Agricultural College where he acquired his tertiary winemaking qualification. Then followed distinguished careers at well-known South African wine cellars such as Murati, Windmeul, Bovlei, Boland and Kleine Zalze. After College he soon proved to be one of South Africa’s most promising young winemakers. Johan was the youngest winemaker to win the coveted General Smuts Trophy at the SA Young Wine Show. His ability to produce exceptional wines meeting the high standards of the discerning international tasting palate, was acknowledged when he was awarded the Robert Mondavi Trophy for International Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in 2001.
Receiving the prestigious Robert Mondavi Trophy was no coincidence. Boland’s achievements in Bordeaux were subsequent to a very successful 2000. At the 2000 Michelangelo International Wine Awards in Johannesburg the Boland Sauvignon Blanc 2000 was the only white wine to receive double gold. The Boland Pinotage 1999 Reserve was one of only ten South African red wines to receive gold at the Air France Wine Awards, while their star also shone brightly at the annual Veritas Awards with three double golds (Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 and its White and Red Muscadel, both 1997) and three gold medals. The Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 was the one to be named the best international Cabernet Sauvignon at the IWSC.
Furthermore, the cellar’s lifestyle wine, the Bon Vino Dry, a 500 ml screw cap “dinky”, was the proud recipient of one of the above-mentioned golds – for the second year running – proof of the ability to also produce top quality affordable wines!
After his initial stint at Boland as the winemaker, he joined Kleine Zalze in 2002 where his highly acclaimed stay included producing many award-winning wines, resulting in another award as best South African producer in 2007. He “returned home” to Boland Cellar in 2014 to take over as Cellar Master.
Prophet for Chenin Blanc
Johan has been donned with many words of praise for both his passion and his craftsmanship to produce exceptional Chenin Blanc. Wine-writers have used expressions such as Chenin Blanc ‘evangelist’ and Chenin Blanc ‘powerhouse’ to describe his abilities … all making this sincere and humble winemaker very shy.
However, he admits to his admiration for Chenin Blanc and the wonderful wines coming from this stalwart cultivar. Celebrating Boland’s Chenin Blanc terroirs at a specialised tasting for wine-writers in November 2014 in Paarl, Johan presented eight different examples of different Chenin Blancs Boland produces. These are from different soils on their 2,200 hectares of vines from five different areas including Paardeberg, Philadelphia, Swartland, Wellington and Berg River.
As one of the guests so aptly described this Johan Joubert tasting experience: “It was a fascinating tasting, especially now that site-specific wines are the current subject of discussion in the industry and we gain momentum mapping our soils, climate and terroir. You can indeed taste the different terroirs in the wines. We got to see some of the different soil types and they are amazingly different from their farms all over the Boland. Don’t let these wines slip off your radar, we think they are about to do amazing things.” Quoted from @MAININGMENU
The challenge ahead
Johan deems himself fortunate to take over as Cellar Master with a top class winemaking team in place that received many national and international accolades for Boland’s wines again in 2014. The latter included the General Smuts Trophy for its Chenin Blanc as the SA Champion Wine and the Les Tastevins Du Cap Trophy for the SA Champion Chenin Blanc. At the prestigious Michelangelo International Wine Awards Boland received double golds for its Reserve No1 Pinotage 2011 and its Reserve No1 Chenin Blanc 2013 as well as four gold. At the Veritas Awards, Boland’s wines were crowned with no less than four gold medals.
Johan concludes: “I look forward to the challenge … or I should rather say the opportunity to use my talent from Above … at Boland Cellar that has so much to offer. As Cellar Master I am fortunate to be backed by some of the best viticultural areas and practices on the one hand and winemaking skills on the other, available in the South African wine industry. I believe that we as a team will continue a legacy of producing exceptional wines for the national and international consumer. However, I realise that competition grows by the day and that the global palate has become very discerning and demanding … but this I love!”
Is Johan up to the challenge? One of the leading wine-writers best sums up his abilities: “Johan’s extensive knowledge of soil types, climatic influences as well as his deep understanding of international and local consumer taste profiles makes him a leader in the field. The innovative and skilfully blended wines he produces continue to garner some of the industries’ leading awards on a regular basis.”