Interview With A Winemaker – Petri de Beer
10th March 2023
Wine isn’t just made, it’s crafted by the unwavering expertise of a Winemaker, sometimes old traditions are passed down by generations and on other occasions, new people venture into the industry, introducing us to new creations. This series of Winemaker Interviews will help you uncover the vast world and skills of how the artists passionate about wine make the world a bubbly place.
In this article we speak with Petri de Beer, an amazing Winemaker from South Africa, let’s discover a little about his time in the Wine Industry.
Tell Us About Yourself
“These types of questions are kind of hard for me. I always find it awkward to talk about myself. I come from an agricultural family (for me unfortunately beef cattle and maize) coming from a farming community in the North West province of South Africa. So it does feel sometimes that I always had a predetermination to end up in the agricultural sector, not that I am complaining because if you are in the wine industry you know how exciting it is. I did my Masters degree in Wine Chemistry at Stellenbosch university after which I started studying Agricultural Economics part time. I am currently busy with my Ph.D. in Agricultural economics. I am looking at trying to integrate biological and international trade models for grape producers to make it more accessible and usable on farm level.”
How Did You Become Involved In The Wine Industry?
“Like I said I come from an agricultural background, but not out of a wine background. How my journey started was quite by accident. I was about 17 and trying to decide between animal husbandry or agronomy when a good friend of mine’s mother that studied at Stellenbosch in passing just added that the winemaking students at Stellenbosch always seemed to enjoy what they were doing. I was just “woh” hold up you can study to be a winemaker? And the winemaking bug has gotten me ever since. I started as an Assistant winemaker at Stellenbosch Vineyards and was there for six years before being appointed winemaker at Longridge wine Estate. I did a two year stint there and then had the difficult choice to make of staying on as a full time winemaker or pursuing a Ph.D. The decision came down to the fact that I could always still make wine on the side ( which I am currently doing), but I cannot do a Ph.D. on the side.”
As A Winemaker, What Has Been Your Hardest Obstacle To Overcome In Producing Wine?
“I must say the hardest for me, and this is probably a very boring answer, is money. Making wine is very capital intensive and is the primary hurdle keeping new entrants out of the industry. Even if you are working for a cellar that has good financial backing and not on your own it is still your main worry and has more of a determination on the end product than a winemaker’s vision or style.”
How Do You Determine When Your Wine Is Ready To Drink?
“People always think we make wine and then taste it every month out of the barrel until it is at its optimal and then it is all go go go to get it into the bottle at its best. The truth is when you start off with the grapes you have to already decide on what the aging potential of the wine is going to be. That has a big influence on how you approach the winemaking of that specific wine. So you usually have a rough idea of what you are looking for and how long a wine will take to reach that readiness. When tasting I am looking for smooth tannins and integrated alcohol. I do not want some part of the wine overpowering another. So if I find harsh tannins or an overpowering wood character it means it needs more time in the barrel.”
What Part Of The Wine Making Process Do You Enjoy The Most?
“I love the fact that we are able to create something. There is a satisfaction in that, that a lot of modern professions do not have anymore. To be able to take a bottle of wine and put it on a table and have a round sensory experience of all the effort and time that was spent the last 12-24 months in the cellar.”
Thank you Petri, for sharing your words, knowledge and experience with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!
Images belong to Petri de Beer. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission to use them.
Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.