Mike Kreft – how the Elgin Valley inspired him
01 January 1970
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live. We head to Elgin now and it’s time to catch up with someone we haven’t had on the podcast before but he’s got a very close connection because we’ve spoken to his son, Alastair before. Mike Kreft, welcome onto Old Mutual Live Wine. Thanks for taking the time to chat to us today. Welcome.
Mike Kreft: Hi Brad, ja morning.
BB: Mike I wanted to touch base with you. We obviously spoke to Alastair a while ago just to find out a little bit about him and his journey into wine but we wanted to do the same with you. Where did your love for wine originate from?
The Elgin Valley is what inspired me to make wine
MK: Brad to be quite honest, I never had any aspirations to go into the wine industry at all, make wine or own a small wine farm but when we moved up into Elgin in 2000 we bought a small property and were wanting to do something on that property, grow something.
At the time the food industry, the apple industry had been going through difficult times for a number of years and the farmers up here were looking at different crops. One of them were wine grapes and wine.
They involved a lot of technical people from Stellenbosch and some of the leading winemakers and the overwhelming consensus was that Elgin could be the premier wine area in the country. So that put a little light bulb on and so that’s where it all started really.
BB: So I mean you’re saying that there was, when you started, no real sort of drive to get into the wine industry. Was it purely a business decision for you?
MK: No, you know I’ve always involved myself in matters of passion when it comes to career. If you go back to the grapes, I’ve always enjoyed red wine and this little farm was identified as a red wine area and another aspect that I’ve always enjoyed in somewhat of a pioneering aspect; which goes back to farming Proteas on the Porterville mountain. So that’s where it all started and it was also said to me by a technical viticulturist. Mike I must just warn you they say that you can’t do red grapes up in Elgin so that was an immediate challenge.
BB: I love that. Tell me I can’t do and I’ll prove you wrong. Is it a case of that?
MK: It is a case of that.
What is your winemaking philosophy?
BB: I love that. Mike, tell me a little bit about your philosophy when it comes to winemaking because I just get the feeling from you, you’re not the normal stick. No not stick to the rules but you like to think out of the box and come up with unique solutions to unique challenges.
MK: I think part of the challenge was starting with the vineyards. I’ve always enjoyed, although I’m not trained as an agriculturist or horticulturist, I’ve always enjoyed growing crops. I was in the apple industry for many years and the growing aspect is a very, very important part to me.
So what we have to do here, we have to have a very sun friendly canopy and so we are almost pedantic it terms of that, that we have a very narrow canopy which enjoys a lot of sun. We open up the bunch zone and get a lot of sun onto the bunches at a very early age. In fact, we’ve just done it now so it all starts in the vineyard. I think that is a primary motivation to me, is to do an absolutely perfect job in the vineyard.
We are able to do so because we’re small and I’ve got two fantastic guys who are passionate about what they do. I must admit that the passion has started at that level and has gone through into the winemaking where we do a lot of detail without interfering in the natural process.
BB: Tell me a little bit about, you’re talking about that passion and having people who are as passionate as you working on this project. What’s it like working with Alastair?
Being able to work with your son
MK: Oh Alastair’s great to work with. He’s a great inspiration and very, very passionate in terms of his side of the business which is the marketing side. I don’t know what he said to you but I think his passion started off with us getting into Belfield and that’s where he got into the industry, in primarily the marketing side which is his strength.
BB: Mike as far as what you’d like to achieve with your wines what’s the ultimate goal if at the end of your farming career and when you just decide, do you know what, I’ve had enough of this. What would you like to look back on and say you know what I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve?
Top class hand-crafted wines with minimum interference
MK: I think the main idea as to what I want to achieve is some sort of recognition from myself in terms of really producing top class hand-crafted wines with minimum interference. We use soft methods. We don’t interfere, we don’t over oak. I suppose one could say in terms of awards and accolades we’ve had a lot of those but just to keep climbing on that level and be recognised as a serious contender in the premium wine industry.
You know the wine level so that you know, that sort of carries forward that one might be remembered for that hard work and a seriousness. We’re not just a hobbyist. We seriously want to be a profitable premier wine producer in South Africa.
BB: Mike you mentioned those awards and accolades and it’s easy to get wrapped up in trying to impress whoever’s or needs to impress to hand out those accolades but at the end of the day there’s consumers at the end of the chain who need to drink and enjoy your wine. Is it sometimes easy to get caught up in that chasing accolades and awards and forget about who’s actually drinking the wine at the end of the day?
MK: I certainly don’t want to make that the main chase as it were. We are slowly developing a strong grouping of followers and you know we’ve had cases where our wine has maybe not received the accolades that I expected but has been hugely appreciated by our consumers you know and that is what is important to me.
So I’m not going to follow at all costs to get five stars when consumers…in fact I’ve done small tests between two wines and the one with the lower rating might have, well not might have, but was accepted as the best wine by all the people that tasted the wine.
BB: That’s amazing. Mike, I just want to thank you for your time here on Old Mutual Live here today. I think I’m going to get you on in a few weeks’ time. Just talk a little bit about the farm itself, about Belfield. By the pictures of what I’ve seen and heard it sounds like an amazing place.
I want to delve a little bit deeper into the history of the farm and where it all started and just some of the uniqueness about where you are farming in Elgin at the moment so we’ll save that for next time. Thank you for your time today on Old Mutual Live. Much appreciated.
MK: That’s a pleasure. Thank you.