Winemaker of the Year Johann Fourie moves to Benguela Cove

Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate has appointed renowned winemaker Johann Fourie as its head winemaker.

One of South Africa’s most successful and passionate vinous talents, he has exchanged large-scale corporate wine production for the chance to make top quality ranges on a beautiful boutique Walker Bay farm, boasting terroir with huge potential.

And that’s just the South African brief – Fourie will also be lending his expertise and spending considerable time at the owner’s UK property in Sussex, where the focus is production of patrician sparkling wine.

Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate fringes the Bot River lagoon near Hermanus, where residents enjoy tranquil views over verdant vineyards to the water and the Palmiet Mountains. The estate’s maiden wines were produced in 2007 and in eight short years the premium selection range has enjoyed local and international acclaim. The Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Sémillon and Shiraz have been among the most feted, all attracting medals from the IWSC in London, while the Noble Late Harvest boasts a four and half star rating from Platter’s current guide.

Owner Penny Streeter, Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), and husband Nick Rea bought the Benguela Cove manor house in 2010, with a view to living there full-time in the future. They subsequently bought the entire property and turned their attention to the vineyards as they realised the potential of its terroir.

As Penny states, “If you are going to do something well, then you have to start with the best person and Johann is definitely that. From the day I met Johann he had a passion for Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate that inspired me.”

Johann enlarges on his own ambitions, aiming at specialisation after his decade at KWV during which this giant producer’s wine collected an unprecedented number of awards.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for those regions producing wines with elegance, finesse, balance and longevity. Cooler climate areas like Walker Bay usually deliver on this, but it was the fruit quality and wine style coming from Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate in particular that excited me. Never have I come across wines so distinct in style and of consistently good quality year on year.”

Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate’s wines have already pleased palates in the UK but future development will see the production of a new English sparkling wine on a West Sussex estate. Streeter bought a 500 acre golf club in May, renamed it Mannings Heath Golf Club & Wine Estate, and is transforming part of one golf course into future vineyards. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier will be planted next year and Johann will be responsible for the site and production of the Sussex sparkling wine.

Johann has long harboured a quiet passion for bubbly and was so impressed by the quality of recent UK sparkling wines that he embarked on a technical tour there earlier this year. “Little did I know then that soon I’ll be overseeing a purely sparkling wine-focussed winery in the Northern Hemisphere!”

As he points out, both Walker Bay in South Africa and Sussex are cool climate wine regions, increasingly important given global warming and both ideal for the wine style being embraced by global palates.

Johann was “bitten” by the wine bug during his days at Elsenburg in Stellenbosch, home to some of the world’s finest cellars. He followed his oenology and cellar technology studies with an agricultural degree, and then enrolled for Wine Business Management at UCT’s Graduate School of Business. From his first winemaking post at Badsberg in Rawsonville he moved to KWV where he has spent 10 fruitful years.

Showcasing the diversity of the Western Cape as a grape growing region by making award-winning wines from just about all the major Western Cape terroirs was the strategy, but Johann expects that Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate wines will be “site-specific, eminently drinkable, showcasing precision, balance and a sense of place… complex wines offering an overall authentic experience… Wine should always showcase cultivar and origin, authenticity and typicity.”

Penny Streeter’s incredible story of her rise from a homeless and penniless divorcee with three children to her position as one of the wealthiest women in the UK is one which inspires all who digest it. Now mother of four children, she has appointed her eldest son Adam to head up the Mannings Heath operation for her while she lives in South Africa, where two of her children are still at school. Penny attributes her success in the service and hospitality industry to the strong work ethic found among Southern Africa’s people. As her burgeoning recruitment business in the UK grew, she relocated to Cape Town where she was assured of a flow of quality, service driven staff. Some 12 years ago she brought three children to Cape Town because of both the quality education available along with the freedom she enjoyed as a child in South Africa.

Penny Streeter and Johann Fourie represent the start of a vinous partnership between two dynamic, dedicated, talented go-getters. Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate and Mannings Heath Golf Club & Wine Estate will offer visitors and wine lovers irresistible destinations in two hemispheres, venues that promise a future sparkling with success.