Grande Provence – a piece of South African wine history
01 January 1970
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Brad Brown: Welcome back to this edition of Old Mutual Live and it’s great to have you with us and it’s wonderful to be chatting wine once again today and we’re joined on this edition of the podcast by, he is the General Manager and Cellar Master of Grande Provence in Franschoek, it is Karl Lambour. Karl, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, thanks for taking the time to chat to us. Karl Lambour: Thank you very much for having us.
BB: Karl, it’s an incredible part of the world that you get to operate and live in, tell us a little bit about the estate. It’s one of the oldest around and there’s lots of history there.
A great heritage to Grande Provence
KL: You know, the estate is one of those gems, it dates back to 1694 when the Hugos first arrived in the Cape and were sent out to Franschoek to, as a problem to be hidden away and to be given a part of the world where there were free roaming elephants and the lions like.
The Dutch thought that it would be a great thing to put the French out there because their problem might be solved by natural circumstances and they thrived. As a result of them thriving, we now have the most incredible wine growing environment for Franschoek. It’s an amazing piece of history.
BB: Tell me a little bit about your history into wine and your journey and where it started and how you ended up where you are today.
KL: It started out, I didn’t start wine as my primary career, I actually studied forestry science at Stellenbosch University and worked as forester, chopping down trees in the Natal Midlands, actually for, I think now a defunct company called The Lion Match Company.
Everybody used to joke with me and say, you know, forestry is just about growing trees and looking at them and watching them while they grow and I used to tell them, no, there’s so much more to it. There’s the science, there’s the understanding of the soil, there’s the interaction with the climate and so on and so on.
Turning my forestry knowledge into wine making
Little did I realise that when I got into forestry, it was about planting trees, watching them grow, you never got to harvest your own trees, you always had to deal with the problems that people had created 60-100 years before you arrived there.
It was not as exciting a career opportunity as I thought it would be. I persevered and went back to Stellenbosch University to do post grad studies and then fell in love with wine while I was doing post grad forestry studies. The rest, they say, I took to wine like a duck to water and growing up in Somerset West I was really ensconced and surrounded by some of the most beautiful wine estates and wine regions in the world and it was natural.
BB: I love that you talk about that you never have the opportunity harvest as a forester, yes, you might plant and you might need to harvest someone else’s sort of work that they did 60 years ago, but wine is different. You’ve got the opportunity to really put your stamp on some incredible harvests and hopefully create a bit of a legacy for yourself.
KL: Ja, that’s the weird thing about South Africa and I’ll probably be shot down by all my winemaking friends for saying this, but SA tends to dwell on the rock-star status of winemakers. I have, you know, when we started out making wine and I started making wine, my first vintage was in 2000, so it’s not that long ago, but it feels like forever.
You know, we all had egos and we all wanted to be the rock-stars. When we had wine tastings in centres and everybody came in, they came to see us and they came to speak to us and it was less so about the properties. As you get older and hopefully a little bit wiser and you start understanding your insignificance in time.
As regards to property, or a vineyard, it becomes more evident that you should really be giving the accolades to the ownership of the estate. The people who had the foresight to look after it or purchase it or develop it before you got there. You’re just a custodian for a very, very short time and I think it’s very important that we look at the property as a whole and its full ownership to understand the significance of what makes Grande Provence so fantastic.
BB: Tell me a little bit about the wines you have at Grande Provence. You’ve got some incredible wines.
Three tier range of wines
KL: We do, thank you very much, that means you’ve tasted them, which is always a good thing. I think it’s nice to make wine and we forget that sometimes when we’re in the market selling wine that the end use of this beautiful package and hard work that we put in the vineyards is somebody’s enjoyment. Sitting around a table with people, either eating food or just enjoying company and I think sometimes we lose focus on that.
We produce a three tier range of wines that I think encapsulates everything that we can do on the farm. We have a lifestyle range called Angels Tears, which really does tick all the boxes in terms of flavour and fruitiness and drinkability.
Then we have, I always have to check myself, I suppose those are all the boxes that every single wine needs to tick, but then we also have a range called Grande Provence. Grande Provence as a range of wines allows us to really go out and find the perfect Terroir matches.
So the perfect site matches for specific grape varieties and for us to bring that back to the farm and change it into this wonderful elixir and put it into the bottle and say, here’s the best that we can do with the most incredible vineyard and with our facility at the farm.
Then we have two icon ranges, or one icon range with two wines in it and that is called The Grande Provence and it’s a reflection of what I think the farm really, really does exceptionally well. We have a red blend, which is a blend of Cabernet and Merlot, that’s a classic Bordeaux style blend. It’s won numerous awards, including the Best Bordeaux Blend in South Africa a couple of times, so it really does have a wonderful pedigree.
Then we have the Grande Provence white, which is slightly newer. We started that in 2013, where the red was started in 2005 already and on debut the 2013 Grande Provence white managed to crack a 95 point and a five star rating from Decanter Wine Magazine, which is arguably the finest wine magazine in the world, based in the UK.
The 2014 vintage, which we’ve just put in a bottle, I feel is even better than that. So we create, I think, wines for most people. Those guys that are starting out and wanting to consume things that are friendly and juicy. Guys that want to venture out into drinking wines that reflect a little bit terrier and a little bit more verve and then of course the iconic wines that really make a statement for the property.
BB: You talk about the statement for the property, your wines are fairly widely available. You sell them through the website as well, but there’s nothing better than actually coming to the estate and not just trying it, but drinking and tasting various of your wines to really just get a feel and experience what the estate is all about.
To truly appreciate the wine you need to go to its roots
KL: You know, Franschoek was voted, I think last year, as one of the Top 10 most beautiful wine valleys in the world. As a visitor you get to see that first hand. I’m afraid that my eyes are a little bit jaded. I’ve been driving the road from Wellington to Franschoek for the last three and a half years and although I see the magnificence every time I come into work, sometimes it passes me by when I’m thinking about what I have to do at the office and so on.
But it’s a breathtakingly beautiful valley. Grande Provence is arguably one of the finest properties in the valley. We have the most incredibly laid out and designed gardens. We have one of the funkiest tasting rooms where you get to sit on tractor seats in the tasting room, around a beautiful bar area.
We have the most incredible restaurant, so once you’ve had your wine tasting and you feel like pairing it up with some delicious food, we have an executive chef that knows no equal and produces some of the most sublime meals in the valley.
So, we really have an entire offering for a visit and then of course, at the end of it, when you are feeling really happy and you want to just experience something really, how would you put it, esoterical, you walk into our gallery and we have one of the finest contemporary art galleries in South Africa on the farm, run by the most amazing guy, Trent Reid.
He’s been in the art world, together with his brother, for over 50 years. They have a spectacular eye and pieces that we have at the farm are really, really beautiful, from the most incredible monumental sculptures in the garden, all the way through to the finest detailed fine art hanging on the walls.
BB: I can’t wait to pop by. It’s just a magnificent part of the country and as you say, voted in the Top 10 wine valleys in the world. I’m not sure why, no, you are truly, truly blessed. Karl, thank you so much for your time here on Old Mutual Live. The website to get to if you want to find out more about what Grande Provence has to offer, the website is grandeprovence.co.za. We’ll pop the links to their website in the show notes as well. Karl, thank you so much for your time and we look forward to catching up hopefully on the estate.
KL: I look forward to sharing a glass of wine with you Brad, thanks so much.