Nico Grobler was supposed to become a lawyer, but (much to his parents’ dismay) his love for wine took over. Thank goodness it did.
Today, Nico is a winemaker for Eikendal Vineyards in Stellenbosch, South Africa. We had a chance to catch up with Nico and talk to him about all things wine, South Africa and inspiration.
When did you decide you wanted to make wine?
I come from a farming background. So growing a crop has been always been in my blood. We lived in the northern part of South Africa and moved down to Stellenbosch in 1997. I was 14 years old when I saw a vineyard for the first time. It was then that I knew I was never going to do anything else. I think due to my background my philosophy of the vineyard comes first and winemaking developed from there.
What did your family think of your decision?
I studied Law in my 1st year at University, my parents weren’t too keen on me going into agriculture. However, after my 1st year I convinced them and the rest is history and yes I did pass all my law subjects!
Who is your favorite band?
I really like Bastille’s music and Karen Zoid which is an South-African artist.
What inspires your wine making efforts? What inspires you to make each vintage better than the last?
It is not to make each vintage better than the previous as such, but more a question of having the opportunity to make the best of a new vintage and portraying the specific vintage and it’s characteristics in the wine and to give the wine drinker a sense of place. You need to taste it’s from Eikendal.
What is your philosophy for winemaking?
Showing what our piece of land is giving to us. The philosophy starts in the vineyard and ends in the vineyard. Cellar-wise, less is more…make sure that what you do in the cellar preserves the flavors you created in the vineyard.
What changes have you seen in the South African Wine industry in the past 10 years?
More focus on growing quality vineyards. More focus on specific cultivars. More innovative winemaking and definitely a bigger focus on elegance and finesse rather than big, bold, over oaked and sweet.
What is the biggest risk you have taken in winemaking?
Winemaking is always a risk, especially if you are trying to achieve great things. Probably natural fermentation is always the biggest risk for me, but the rewards are worth it.
What has been your biggest risk in life?
My Golf swing.
What is the biggest misconception about wine?
That you can produce great quality everywhere. Wine is very site specific and needs years of understanding in a single spot.
When is your favorite time to drink wine?
That’s easy…sunset over Helderberg mountain overlooking the vineyards…
When is the most unconventional time to pop a bottle of wine?
There is no such thing. Anytime is conventional to pop the cork!
What’s your favorite aspect of the South African wine culture?
That we are still learning, people in South Africa are very eager to learn about wine.
We’re not sure if Nico’s golf swing will ever come around, but we do know he makes some tasty wine. Try the Eikendal “Janina” Unwooded Chardonnay from your box of awesomeness to taste some of his handiwork.