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Meet De Toren’s Winemaking Team…

Without aim and direction you are nowhere. At De Toren, our wine crafting roadmap is clear and precise. Our objective is to develop the Bordeaux concept and adapt it to be uniquely South African – achieving very complexed, balanced and expressive wines. None of which would have been possible without the extraordinary expertise and knowledge of our dedicated and award-winning winemaking team. Hence we get to know the real ‘heroes’ behind our Exclusive Craftsmanship a bit better…

Albie Koch | Managing Partner

Stellenbosch native, also known as De Toren’s very first Winemaker, Albie Koch is committed to creating wines that are elegant, nuanced, silky smooth and true to the terroir. De Toren flows from Albie’s winemaking and vineyard practices, his passion for the land and his connection to Stellenbosch. Today, more than 20 years later, he has handed over the baton to his once assistant winemaker, Charles Williams, and finds himself in the position as Managing Partner of De Toren Private Cellar.

Albie, tell us a bit more about yourself?

Although I was born in Vryburg in the Nothern Cape, I was raised in a small Southern Cape town better known as Bredasdorp. After matriculating from a high school in Worcester, I decided to further my studies at the Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch. I grew up alongside 2 brothers and one sister and I would definitely describe myself as a family person. Initially, I dreamt of becoming an architect. However, winemaking seemed much more alluring at that stage, as it entailed both creating something and farming – two of my biggest areas of interest.

How and when did you start with De Toren?

A senior Winemaker in 1998 spoke very highly of me to the previous proprietor of De Toren, which was actually back then known as Kleine Uitzicht Wines, since the De Toren name was not yet established. That’s when I was given a chance, being appointed as the very first Winemaker of De Toren Private Cellar.

What is your current role at De Toren?

I currently fulfil my role as De Toren’s Managing Partner. I am very much involved with the everyday business at De Toren and oversee all main strategic areas for both the vineyard and marketing or business side of things.

What have been some of your most challenging moments during your career at De Toren?

My biggest challenge to date would have to be the crafting of the very first and maiden vintage of De Toren Fusion V. As I was only 22 years old back then and still had lots to learn at that stage.

And of course, the highlights during your time with De Toren?

The success of the 1999, maiden vintage of De Toren Fusion V would have to be my biggest highlight during my time at De Toren. That’s what really put De Toren (and Bordeaux-style blends from South Africa in general) on the map – both locally and internationally. But what’s even more is to really just be part of such a remarkable brand. It started from nothing and I can proudly say that I helped built it to what it is today, and what it still stands for. The ‘boy’ became a ‘man’. This not only goes for myself, but also for the brand.

What is your personal favourite De Toren wine?

Honestly, I appreciate each and every one them. Each De Toren wine is special in its own unique way. Besides, it’s like they say – one simply cannot choose between ones children…

Anything special or worth mentioning about your ‘fellow winemakers’ or your successors rather?

Both Charles (Cellar Master) and Martin (Winemaker) are very passionate about what they do. Their love for winemaking is truly inspiring. I can without a doubt say that Charles absolutely loves the vineyards. As for Martin, no matter what the challenge may be, nothing can seem to get him under.

Charles Williams | Cellar Master

Charles was offered the position of Assistant Winemaker in 2008 at De Toren Private Cellar and became Head Winemaker in 2011. Shortly thereafter, in 2019, he was promoted to the position of Cellar Master. His belief is to grow the most perfect, complex berries. By studying nature acutely his aspiration is to guide each vine towards growing the most perfect berries and by giving special attention to the vines as and when needed.

Charles, tell us a bit more about yourself?

I was born into a small farming community in Kakamas in the Northern Cape and I grew up in a close-knit family of five. Growing up, I’ve always loved the outdoors, spending most of my weekends and student holidays on our family farm. After I matriculated, I decided to further my studies by completing my BSc Agri degree in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch. I particularly loved viticulture and found that it came very naturally to me.

How and when did you start with De Toren?

After completing my post graduate studies in Viticulture, Albie (De Toren’s Winemaker at that time) approached me to join the De Toren team as Assistant Winemaker in 2008. Of course I had to accept, although I had some reservations about the direction into “winemaking” back then, as viticulture was my first love. These reservations were extremely short lived. De Toren had a very “vineyard orientated” approach to winemaking which resonated extremely well with my views. Being a Winemaker and now Cellar Master, has actually elevated my love for wine, vineyards and soils to a whole different level. I am always amazed to see how the work done in our vineyards come to life in our splendid Bordeaux-style blends in the end.

Describe your current role at De Toren?

Currently I fulfil the role of De Toren’s Cellar Master. In a nutshell, it entails looking at the quality and sustainability of our soils, vines and wine. It is an amazing position that allows for strategical thoughts and creative planning. It also touches on marketing, logistics, and financial aspects of the business, but the best part is that I manage the practical aspects that comes with farming and winemaking.

What have been some of your most challenging moments during your career time with De Toren?

In 2016 we took the leap toward full organic agriculture. To be rather honest, 2017 and 2018 late spring and early summer was quite challenging times. We had to work incredibly hard to keep the plants healthy and counteract any possible pesticides. Now, 3 years later, initial plans are manifesting and positive results are starting to appear and we couldn’t be more amazed!

And of course, the highlights during your time with De Toren?

I would rather describe my highlights during my time at De Toren as small battles won on a seasonal basis. It is truly incredible when research, planning and execution comes together in a wine. When you have to make tough calls while predicting what mother nature will throw at you and you get it right… That is where true craftsmanship is to be found.

What is your personal favourite De Toren wine?

To be quite honest, I have a few favourites…. De Toren Fusion V 2009 (my very first vintage and superb wine), De Toren Z Decade (100% Merlot release – absolutely love this wine), De Toren Fusion V 2016 (more from a reflective view in how hard it was to create such a balanced wine full of finesse in quite challenging climatic conditions), Book XVII and The Black Lion 2017 (amazing vintage and I truly believe these two wines purely and accurately tells the story of the vintage). Last, but definitely not least… De Toren Z 2017 Directors Reserve (blend of 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc). Perhaps starting to pick up a trend? Love both our De Toren Z and De Toren Fusion V  wines – and it is especially intriguing how they work in synergy!

Anything special or worth mentioning about your ‘fellow winemakers’ or your predecessor?

I can without a doubt say that Albie has vision and conviction. I love the fact that he is extremely detail orientated. Whereas, Martin has an amazing pallet. In a word – a real cellar rat! He has an absolute passion for making wine and being creative.

Martin Fourie | Winemaker

After a few harvests both abroad and locally, Martin joined the De Toren team in 2016 as Assistant Winemaker and soon hereafter was offered the position of De Toren Winemaker in 2019. He is absolutely passionate about winemaking and he believes in crafting Bordeaux styled blends that are vibrant and expressive.

Martin, tell us a bit more about yourself?

I was actually born in Pretoria in the Gauteng region. Whilst growing up, both my parents were very much the entrepreneurial type, which ultimately led to our family moving quite a few times over the years. About 20 years ago, my family decided to settle in Cape Town. Hence, I completed matric at Bellville High School and went to study directly thereafter, furthering my studies at the Elsenburg Agricultural College, situated in Stellenbosch. Initially, the plan was to become a pilot, however the fine science of winemaking seemed much more intriguing and definitely caught my attention.

How and when did you start with De Toren?

I joined the De Toren team in January 2016, when I was appointed as Assistant Winemaker after travelling and harvesting both abroad and locally.

Describe your current role at De Toren?

I currently fulfill the role as the Winemaker here at De Toren Private Cellar. I mainly take responsibility for the vinification and maturation of the grapes, the bottling of our wine and also the preparation for the exports of any of our wines.

What have been some of your most challenging moments during your career at De Toren?

My biggest challenge experienced so far would have to be the management and guiding of a group of people to perform tasks in a timeous and correct manner. Each team member comes with its own unique characteristics and ways of doing things, sometimes even long before I, myself joined.

And of course, the highlights during your time with De Toren?

Some of my biggest highlights include having the opportunity to have worked on the past vintages and seeing how the effect of climate can be expressed in the wine. Having gained more knowledge from this and how to implement it to improve the wine in a specific vintage is always of great value to me.

What is your personal favourite De Toren wine?

Honestly, this depends on the weather… Each De Toren wine has a time and place when it just suits the environment slightly better than the other. Hence, making it rather difficult for me to choose.

Anything special or worth mentioning about your ‘fellow winemakers’ or rather your predecessors?

Both has a great passion for winemaking! Albie has a questioning characteristic which very easily points out any root to a specific challenge or problem. Whereas, Charles has a ‘get-it-done’ attitude, which lets you think critically and to prioritise your daily or weekly and seasonal goals. Both amazing winemakers with such unique qualities and characteristics.

 

A team of 3 award-winning winemakers, each in their own right. Each member of this team brings something unique to the table and we believe these traits and ways of working make for the award-winning team they are. We salute you, Albie, Charles & Martin!

Make sure to secure some of the very last De Toren Z 2016 vintage cases…

Discover the extraordinary Book XVII 2018 vintage – available on pre-release…

Read more as De Toren gives back – all for a good cause…

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