Ernst and I go back many years; as far back as our high school days in the Strand.
Ernst Gouws was born in the Paarl but finished his primary school education in Wolseley in the Boland. His father retired and moved to the Strand where I met Ernst for the first time. We both went to Strand High but matriculated at different schools; Ernst at Paul Roos Gimnasium and I at Jan van Riebeeck High.
After high school his father wanted him to go to university but that was not part of his immediate planning. He wanted to be a farmer. The soil was in his blood. At last he agreed to go to Teachers College to study to become a woodwork teacher. At the back of his mind Ernst had a dream to one day open his own joinery for he loves working with wood.
After a year he called a halt to his training to become a teacher and accepted a job at the KWV. He stayed at KWV for a year. During these twelve months he was exposed to all the processes of the wine industry. Ernst was hooked! He was especially crazy about harvest time.
This experience motivated him to go to Germany where he studied at the Weinsberg Wine School near Stuttgard. Back in South Africa he started work at Du Toitskloof Cellars but after four years went back to France for another year in the French vineyards and cellars.
Back in South Africa Saxenburg and Rheebokskloof followed and in 1992 Ernst and a German partner started Hoopenburg. Their ways parted after 12 years and he bought himself some farmland next to Hoopenburg. That’s when Ernst & Co was born!
Ernst met his wife Gwenda while still at school in Stellenbosch. They got married in Germany when she came to visit him there. It was during his time in Germany that he got involved with a family where each member of the family was integrated in the running and operation of their farm. Ernst and Gwenda decided there and then that they were going to apply the same principle to their family. From the start at Hoopenburg all the children was involved in the day to day operation of the farm.
Today the whole family is involved in Ernst Gouws & Co. Two of the children, Ernst junior and Ezanne, is qualified winemakers and plays an important part in the production of the wines. Inke, the eldest, is a buyer of champagne and Gwenda, mother and wife, is keeping the many strings of the family and the business together.
To get to know Ernst better, I asked him the following questions:
• Why did you become a winemaker?
It was the creativity and the challenge of taking nature’s product and having to form and shape it into your own creation.
• What is the best wine you have made?
Saxenburg Noble Late Harvest (1985).
• What is the best wine you have drunk?
I can’t remember the name but it was a French Pinot Noir. What I can remember is that it cost around R5 000 a bottle!
• If not a winemaker, what else?
Cabinet-maker. Woodwork is a passion of mine.
• What’s left on your bucket list?
I want to travel in Africa. Maybe an extensive motorbike trip in Africa or Namibia? When I am on my motorbike in nature I can feel God’s presence.
• What pet(s) do you have?
I love poultry and birds. I could have been a professional bird watcher. But I have a Jack Russell that’s been with me for 12 years. He’s like my own shadow.
• What’s your favourite TV program?
Noot vir Noot and Sport.
• What songs do you sing in the cellar/shower/car?
German wine/beer songs and gospel songs.
• What motto do you live by?
I see myself as a free-spirit so I think it will be something like there are no boundaries to life! or don’t let anyone or anything fence you in.
• What do you think of box wine?
It’s not for me, but there is a market and a place for it. I have never drunk it myself.
• What wine do you drink if not your own?
Wines from the Stellenbosch region. But mostly I drink my own.
• What cultivar was the wine at the wedding reception in the New Testament?
• Tent or Hotel?
• How do you relax?
A ride on my motorbike or mountain bike.
In the tasting glass:
Ernst Gouws & Co Chardonnay 2011
Composition: 100% Chardonnay
Winemaker: Ernst Gouws
Terroir: Soil type> Ancient cemented limestone
Oenology: Harvested early morning. Hand-harvested in small baskets at optimum fruit ripeness. Small, old, bush vines.
Barrel maturation: 7 Months in new French oak
Yield: 8 ton per hectare
Cellaring Potential: Enjoy now and drink within 5 years
Winemakers notes: The Ernst Gouws & Co Chardonnay is intense and forthcoming with aromas of fresh almonds, peach and lemon. There is also a subtle hint of vanilla and spice on the nose. On the palate the wine shows excellent balance between complexity and elegance. Typical flavours like almonds, lemon and grapefruit with a leesy creaminess and a touch of minerality on the palate. Good structure and mouthfeel with nice minerality, elegant, long nutty toasty finish.
Chef’s Notes: Will go well with dishes such as crayfish, kingklip, curry fish and pasta.
Tel: +27 (0)21 865 2895
Images: Ernst Gouws & Co and self
I have enjoyed great health at a great age because every day since I can remember I have consumed a bottle of wine except when I have not felt well. Then I have consumed two bottles. – Bishop of Seville
Hold the bottle up to the light; you will see your dreams are always at the bottom. – Rob Hutchinson
A waltz and a glass of wine invite an encore. – Johann Strauss