Interview with Hattingh de Villiers
21 Aug 2014
Your full name?
Paul Hattingh de Villiers (29 years)
How would you describe yourself?
Positive, fun, down-to-earth.
What hobbies do you have?
I am quite a sport fanatic, love playing golf, cricket and tennis. Woodwork is another big interest, and of course jogging or cycling with my dogs.
What’s a silly habit you have?
Whistling, I do it all the time!
When did your love affair with wine begin and when did you know you wanted to be a winemaker?
My granddad bought a farm outside of Lutzville, his deposit on the farm was an old Ford-bakkie in those days, ever since the De Villiers family has been farming outside of Lutzville, thus I always wanted to farm with grapes or do something in the field. I went to Elsenburg cellar’s open day, and saw the passion with which the guys made their wines from vineyard to bottle and I got hooked.
What made you get involved in the wine business?
The saying “Winemaking is not a fashion, it’s a passion”. All the long hours and hard work, especially during harvest time, pays off when you taste your own wine and say, man that’s special!
How did you get to be wine maker at Muratie?
I did my winemaking degree at Elsenburg and throughout my studies I worked at Morgenhof. After graduation a few of us Elsenburgboertjies decided to see what winemaking in Australia was all about. There I worked at a family estate just south of Adelaide in the Langhorne Creek Valley, where we made anything from sweet Shiraz with a fizz (something the Aussies love), chalky Tempranillo / Malbec’s, crispy Verdelho’s to Grand Tawnies. Having enjoyed and learned a lot from the Aussies, the four of us took an epic road trip, with ‘Trusty Rusty’ our camper van around Australia.
After this I went to California for six months and worked in ‘n beautiful little chateau style winery in Napa called Chateau Montelena, having the privilege to make some of the world’s best Chardonnay, Riesling and Zinfandel.
After having all of these great experiences abroad, I was assistant winemaker at Opstal Wine Estate in the beautiful Slanghoek Valley. Here I enjoyed the diverse terroir and climate Slanghoek had to offer (rainfall of 2000mm a year and temperatures of 40’s).
It was then Rawsonville, as winemaker at Daschbosch Cellar, part of the uniWines Group. A very special four years for my wife Leonie and I, producing good quality wines and living in the picturesque Louwshoek Valley where colleagues became great friends.
I did a Post Graduate Diploma in Wine Business Management during this time, and learned a lot about the value and supply chain side, thinking out of the box marketing angles and implementing a hands-on approach.
Recently, Leonie and I found ourselves in unfamiliar territory having to make one of the biggest decisions of our lives together, namely whether to make a career move. This, when you are expecting your first baby daughter, is daunting but it was time for a new challenge!
Sitting with Rijk and Kim outside Muratie’s tasting room under the trees, enjoying one of Jackson’s famous cappucinos, we found that we share the same love for wine, food, people and dogs. It was then that we decided to take this leap of faith, and what a wonderful adventure it has turned out to be!
What exciting projects are you working on at the moment?
Currently we are working on the Ansela van de Caab 2012 blend, with very interesting and promising components in barrels at this stage. This one’s going to be one to look out for.
What are you looking to tackle in the future?
Except for striving to keep quality above all in the cellar and making the best of what natures gives us, I want to learn to speak and understand Xhosa fluently in the next 5 years. J
What’s is it like, being on the inside of Muratie?
At this stage everything is still new to me, but it’s really great fun being part of this dynamic group of people all working towards the same goal…trying to take over the world J! Ha-ha, no really it’s great fun so far, there is a great ‘gees’ within the group, and working at a place with so many stories and rich history is wonderful… almost as incredible as the view of table mountain from the tasting room and vineyards.
2 Border Collies – Juki and Bella and an adorable little 6 month-old Rottie (Billy) who is aspiring to be a big watchdog one day.
Tell us about Jackson and Sid's friendship and antics on the farm.
Jackson and Sid remind me of Bananas in Pajamas, it almost feels like Sid asks Jackson “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” just before they go on their walkabouts, like two gypsies, travelling the Simonsberg Ward J
Do you have a nickname?
Well in Australia they struggled to pronounce my name, so instead of calling me Hattingh they called me Fanie de Villiers (the Aussies love their cricket) and then something similar happened at my first tasting at Muratie, a ladies wine tasting club also struggled with my name, so they decided to call me Fresh de Villiers after Rijk told them that I am still fresh (my second day on the job).
Which is your favourite Muratie wine and why?
Bordeaux blends fascinate me, thus the Ansela van de Caab – Cab / Merlot / Cab Franc will have to be my first choice, being dark and intense, with rich savoury flavours and elegant tannins, although the Laurens Campher White Blend is also a strong contender since I always love something different and unique, in this case what the Verdelho adds to the blend.
As a winemaker, what would you want to be known for?
Making honest, great quality wines that tell a story, and having fun while doing it!
Who is your role model and why?
My Dad, a more humble and honest person will be difficult to find, he is always willing to help anyone no matter how big or small the matter, his positive attitude towards life is contagious!
Tell us something funny about yourself.
On a beautiful sunny day, about three years ago I wanted to ask my wife, Leonie’s hand in marriage. Having everything pre-planned and double checked in my mind, I took her to a beautiful place in the Stellenbosch heads. Having set up a picnic in the forest, all went well and she said yes, what a bonus! Everything going according to plan, we drove off to Arabella via Gordon’s Bay and Betties Bay to top off the perfect day with a round of golf, since we both love playing golf. We showed up a little bit late for our tee time, being very much in love and having to stop at every bay area to take photos. On the first tee were about 5 fourball groups waiting for us to get underway, and of course a few grumpy tourists did not like the fact that we were late. I tried to soften the guys up in my very Afrikaans English accent of course still a bit dazed by the fact that I got engaged just an hour earlier, I told them: "My apologies for the wait guys but it is a very special occasion for my fiancé and I, we just got divorced.” I think the local bar in Kleinmond heard the roar of laughter that ensued. Needless
to say, we never heard the end of it at the 19th hole!
How would you describe your wine making style?
Making bohemian style wines with the grapes given to you by nature without getting too technical.
What is it like working with Rijk and do you work closely together?
I am really enjoying working with Rijk and Kim, they are both very interesting and passionate people and we enjoy the same things in life being, food, wine and people!
Tell us about the Muratie work team?
It is a interesting and dynamic team with a lot of different pallets, personalities and ideas. I think it is good to differ and let everybody be heard, since wine is a natural and dynamic product and you need different opinions and input in today's ever changing market.
What’s your favourite time of year?
My favourite but also most challenging time of the year is harvest time, you start off with a clean slate and this is when you produce and mould what is going to be your livelihood for the next few years.
If you could change anything in your past, what would it be?
Taste more wines! No seriously, I believe that every experience in life is valuable and help shape you as a person, even (or especially) the bad ones.
What’s your favourite meal with which wine?
It was set in stone for me as fresh lemon butter fish with a fruity Sauvignon blanc but Kim completely changed that last Friday by making us a creamy chicken curry dish served with the Laurens Campher White blend, which is Chenin Blanc-based, rounded off with Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho and Viognier. This wine complements the mild, aromatic spice dish beautifully with its lively fresh lemon and lime notes, creamy oak and lengthy finish.