Danielle Coetsee crowned Woman Winemaker of the Year at the 2020 SA Women’s Wine & Spirit Awards

The fifth SA Women’s Wine & Spirit Awards took place much later than originally anticipated. Michelle Grimbeek, the convenor of judges and her team welcomed the all-women panel on the morning of 19 November at the Nietvoorbij campus in Stellenbosch. A short briefing followed the necessary photo sessions, and then the judges were hard at work.

In partnering with Spiegelau, SA Women’s Wine and Spirit Awards could assure that panellists taste from truly superior stemware. The tasting was done using the Spiegelau Expert Tasting glasses, designed and made for exactly this purpose.

The aim of the annual competition is to find worthy wines, spirits and liqueurs judged by all-female panels, and to award the best products entered.

SA Women’s Wine & Spirit Awards is the only competition solely judged by women to make recommendations on what to buy and is becoming increasingly important as a marketing tool.

Women winemaker of the year

Women winemakers compete and perform shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts, and therefore the SA Women’s Wine & Spirit Awards decided to crown the inaugural Woman Winemaker of the Year in 2020. Danielle Coetsee from Boschendal is the well-deserved trophy winner.

We asked Danielle a few questions to find out more about this remarkable woman.

Q: Where did you grow up, and what made you go into winemaking?

A: I grew up in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town and it was my uncle’s stories that piqued my interest. Initially I fell in love with the idea of producing wines that people could appreciate and enjoy, and having creative freedom knowing that each vintage will hold its own challenges. Later, when the science, experience and hard work required became evident, it only motivated me even more. Nothing feels as good as getting your hands dirty during harvest. 

Q: Where did you study and where did you work before Boschendal?

A: I studied cellar technology at Elsenburg. I was winemaker and farm manager at Eerste Hoop, a boutique estate between Theewaterskloof and Botrivier, before Boschendal. 

Q: What is your role and title at Boschendal?

A: Méthode Cap Classique Winemaker 

Q: Who played a vital role for you to become a well-rounded winemaker and why?

A: All the people I have worked with along the way have had an influence on me and my style and technique of winemaking. Winemaking is rarely a one (wo)man show and requires help and support from many people and suppliers. The team at Boschendal, previous and current winemakers, have been paramount in the success of the Méthode Cap Classique wines.

Q: What do you think is the single most important characteristic a winemaker should have?

A: Attention to detail and dedication to continuous improvement.

Q: What is your secret to your success?

A: An amazing support system, at the cellar and at home. Being patient but diligent in the endeavor to produce top class Méthode Cap Classique wines. Taking criticism as it is received, if it is constructive – use it, if it is harsh – do not allow it to evolve into self-doubt or break your confidence. At the end of the day, especially with making Méthode Cap Classique wines it is a process of patience and dedication and all the recognition goes to the team and all hands involved in this delicate and rewarding process.

Q: How is it different being a female in a male dominated industry?

A: You must stand your ground, there are many gentlemen in the industry, but there can also be bullies. But if you are consistently firm but fair, people will hopefully respect you and your resilience.

Q: Are there any vinicultural practices that differentiate you from the rest?

A: We are meticulous with our block selection for all our wines, but especially with Méthode Cap Classique production, you need to know your block and monitor its progress and production. The Elgin, Stellenbosch and Boschendal grapes we take in, are chosen and allocated for their specific qualities and designated styles that we wish to produce. You need to know your vineyards to know what the end-product will be in your wine.

Q: What role do you think your terroir at Boschendal plays?

A: 60% of our Méthode Cap Classique grapes come from Boschendal farm. These vineyards produce elegant, high-acid wines with a firm structure. The fresh yet fullness of the Boschendal Méthode Cap Classique wines are, which I believe, our defining factor.

Q: How do you think South African sparkling wines stand on the international stage?

A: South African sparkling wines are a force to be reckoned with, I believe we will continue to see growth and appreciation for our wines increase in the international market and the Méthode Cap Classique category specifically, is world-class and holds its own against other bottle fermented producers worldwide. There is a uniqueness to South African sparkling wines that cannot be reproduced elsewhere.

Judging during the 2020 tasting

The 2020 team that made it all possible.
The judges on the wine panel were Lisa du Toit, Wanda Cronje CWM, Tanja Beutler, Erika van Zyl, Esme Groenewald and Nadia Hefer. The judges on the spirit and liqueur panel were Dr Caroline Snyman CWM, Manzi Sishi and Marené de Beer.
We want to thank our partners in making this event possible:

Details about the 2021 SA Women’s Wine & Spirit Awards will be announced in the last week of January 2021.

For enquiries, visit the website at https://www.sawwa.co.za/, or email Sanet at general@sawwa.co.za.