Thursday, 21 July 2011


My featured wine estate of the moment is Karusa, a family operated and managed premium private winery. It’s situated in the foothills of the Swartberg Mountain Range, just north of Oudsthoorn, in the scenic settlement of Schoemanshoek. Jacques Conradie, the cellar master, has created something truly special with the wines through a sustainable organic approach that guarantees an end product that overflows with individuality and character.

Karusa is the first Southern Cape producer to plant Mouvedre, Grenache Noir and Petit Sirah, cultivars that are perfectly matched to our warm continental climate. They also have Shiraz, Pinotage, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Jacques specialises in making Cap Classiques and Mediterranean style red and white wines; most of which find their way to Garden Route hotels, guesthouses and restaurants.
I recently had a chat with Jacques and asked him a few questions.

(Me) How long have you been involved in the wine industry?

(Jacques) I’ve been making wine for 12 years with stints at Mooiuitsig Winery (Bonnievale), Graham Beck and Bon Cap Organic Wines (Robertson), Boplaas (Calitzdorp) and also been involved in harvests in France in 2003 and 2005. I’ve made Karusa wines on the side since 2004 and full-time from 2009.

(Me) What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?

(Jacques) The combination of the different facets involved in making wine, in and outdoors – vineyards, winery, marketing, creativity, meeting people....... eating and drinking!

(Me) What are the challenges of making wine on a farm north of Oudsthoorn, in the Klein Karoo?

(Jacques) The natural elements are pretty much against you 100% of the time..... extreme heat, drought and bird-baboon-porcupine damage. On the upside, if you do it right, you get noticed very quickly and that helps in such a competitive market. Pre-planning the vineyard site, clone, irrigation etc are all crucial in extreme vineyard growing areas.

(Me) What made you decide on that part of SA?

(Jacques) It’s different, unspoiled and loaded with possibility, if you know what you’re doing. We’re also situated on a major tourism route, close to the Cango Caves. Thousands of people pass our front door every year and there are no competing wineries around us, as is the case in Stellenbosch and Robertson etc.

(Me) Can you give us a brief rundown of your wine portfolio?

(Jacques) We cater for various styles and price points with quite a big portfolio of wine, but extremely limited volumes, ensuring exclusivity to our clients. We don’t sell to supermarkets or liquor stores and refrain from being corrupted by commercialism – we sell an art not a beverage. Prices range from R40 – R120 a bottle with a Lifestyle, Vineyard Specific and Reserve Collection. Cultivars include Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinotage and Shiraz and we have red and white blends. We are the first and only producer in the Klein Karoo to produce Cap Classique.

(Me) What’s your favourite thing to eat when you’re at home with family and friends? and drink?

(Jacques) Plain and simple – give me a medium rare rump steak, potato wedges and a salad of tomato and onion dressed with olive oil and balsamic and I’m satisfied. In winter I’ll enjoy a full bodied Pinotage and either Sauvingon Blanc or Chenin Blanc in summer. The occasional Rose and barrel matured Viognier are also favourites. A refreshing pale ale is always welcome, especially since we’re adding a micro-brewery to the winery to be up and running by around September/October.

(Me) Maybe you could give me one of your favourite family recipes?

(Jacques) My wife Saretha makes a killer lamb shank. Marinade the lamb in Viognier, then rub with olive oil and mixed herbs and simmer in a low oven for a few hours in its own juice. Re-heat the next day, adding a reduction of canned whole tomatoes, balsamic, olive oil, salt, pepper and lots of Shiraz. Simmer in the oven for another 2 hours. Serve with samp and roasted veg (marrows, mushroom, carrots, onion etc). Wash down with a Karusa 5th Element Syrah/Viognier.... then go for a 2/3 hour nap!
Check out their website for more details.

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