One thing that fascinates me about winemakers is learning about what drives and motivates them.
Many that I meet are born artists, who express themselves through their wines.
Others are more technical - trained engineers or scientists who love the chemistry and geeky process behind it all.
And some winemakers are driven by something deeper - a calling, you could say.
I can tell you that Berene Sauls is definitely in that last group.
From humble beginnings…
Berene is from Tesselaarsdal, a remote village in the Overberg region of the Western Cape.
This isn’t wine country - there isn’t a vineyard in sight. The locals are far more likely to drink beer over wine.
But just 22 kilometres away is the world-famous Hemel-en-Aarde, home to South Africa’s best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
…to one of South Africa’s best wine jobs
Berene landed a job aged 19 at the prestigious Hamilton Russell winery, as the au pair for the owners’ children.
It was soon obvious that she had much more to offer, so she was moved over to the wine side of the business.
It was the best possible education in fine wine, working across production, logistics, and exports for 14 years (and she still works there now!).
Then in 2015 Berene got a small loan to start her own business on the side, and Tesselaarsdal Wines was born.
Her dream was to make wine one day in the village where she came from.
Let me show you heaven on earth…
Hemel-en-Aarde means ‘Heaven and Earth’, and this couldn’t describe the place better.
It’s a cool-climate region close to the coast, and surrounded by mountains.
Hemel-en-Aarde is split into three parts - the lower and warmer Valley, the sandstone and granite-rich Upper Valley, and finally the Ridge - the coolest and highest part of the area.
Berene sources her grapes from the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, along with hotshot producers like Ataraxia and Storm Wines.
It’s cooler and windier up here, which means the grapes get 2-3 weeks of extra hang-time on the vines, compared to further down in the valley.
This lends a pristine fruit profile and great minerality to the wines - just the ticket for delicious Pinot and Chardonnay.
It's a bumpy road, but the Tesselaarsdal journey is only getting started
At an exclusive member dinner at Volpe Nera in Blackrock two weeks ago, Berene told us all about her story to get here, and the next chapter of Tesselaarsdal Wines.
In 2019 she emptied her bank account to buy a barren 16 hectare patch of land in Tesselaarsdal.
It meant she’d be the first person in the village’s history to plant a vineyard there.
People told her she was crazy - she probably was
Berene pulled in everyone she knew - sons, parents, friends, villagers, current and former colleagues - to help dig, lift, plant, advise, and do whatever else was needed to get the show on the road.
Including drilling 200 metres into the earth, three times, to find the critical water needed to irrigate the vineyard.
(The water turned out salty, by the way. Another hurdle to overcome!)
And this is what inspires me about Berene.
300 years after her ancestors settled in the area as freed slaves, here’s a strong, independent and proud Tesselaarsdaller, chasing her dreams with hard work and fierce determination.
And a total inability to take no for an answer!
Now you can be part of the Tesselaarsdal story - reserve the new vintages here
Respected wine expert Greg Sherwood MW called Berene ‘the next South African Pinot Noir icon’. The hype is real.
She sells 100% of her wines on allocation - such is the demand for them. And she’s very careful where they end up.
So we’re lucky to get our hands on a small amount of her new vintage, which will be here by the end of June. In this special pre-order you’ll get:
- 4x Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir 2022 - a darker, riper vintage for Pinot, with flavours of dark cherries, violets and fresh herbs. Berene ferments 10% whole bunch to give the wine a bit of extra structure and oomph. It’s got a lovely intensity and creaminess to it, and has a long silky finish
- 2x Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2022 - Berene ages this in amphorae (clay pots) which draws out the beautiful citrus blossom and peachy flavours of Chardonnay. There’s a subtle salinity going on and such a beautiful texture on the palate. One for the Chablis lovers - more Chardonnay should be made like this!
It’s the biggest honour to work with Berene and bring you her wines
This is what WineSpark is all about - giving you access to amazing wines that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
Made by an inspirational woman, who has achieved so much with Tesselaarsdal as her side hustle. And the best is still to come.
And for me, knowing and appreciating Berene’s story makes drinking her wines so much more enjoyable.
Pre-order your Tesselaarsdal 2022 6-pack for €189.74 (instead of €306) here - and roll on the end of June!