Berene Sauls of Hamilton Russell Vineyards has exceeded all expectations with her first release of Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir 2015. This is a breakthrough in more ways than one. A first wine for Sauls, but also the first wine project wholly owned by an individual from the historically disadvantaged community in the Hemel-en-Aarde area.
From au pair to export manager to winemaker, Berene Sauls of Hamilton Russell Vineyards is dazzling the South African wine scene with the release of her own label, Tesselaarsdal. Below, she shares some of her inspirations, motivations and future plans for the wine.
Vineyard Brands is excited to begin working with Berene and her new project with a very small allocation of the 2015 Pinot Noir. We look forward to growing our United States distribution as Tesselaarsdal grows.
What is the significance of the name "Tesselaarsdal"?
I grew up in a small village called Tesselaarsdal situated 24 km North East of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Hermanus in the Overberg region. Tesselaarsdal has a unique history where East India Company settler, Johannes Tesselaar, left his land to his freed slaves to farm upon his death in 1810.
What brought you to Hamilton Russel Winery originally? What factors motivated you to move from the business and export side of wine at Hamilton Russell to bottling your own wine, Tesselaarsdal?
After completing school I initially joined Hamilton Russell Vineyards in February 2001 as an au pair at the age of 19. I soon moved to an administrative position and quickly got involved in the much morecomplicated administration linked to wine exports, labelling as well as warehousing of the estate’s wines.
Experiencing so many aspects of the business already my curiousity turned towards the delicate process from grape to bottle, the very layered wine culture and living the excitement of each harvests.
Fifteen years after starting my career in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Anthony Hamilton Russell offered to assist me with the wonderful opportunity to wholly own my own wine business and join the rest of the Hemel-en-Aarde area as a producer with the expert assistance of Hamilton Russell Vineyards wine maker, Emul Ross and the Hamilton Russell Vineyards’ team.
Are the grapes sourced from this area at all?
Grapes purchases are secured with Babylon Vineyards, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge (unirrigated vineyards) until Tesselaarsdal’s vineyards is secured and ready for harvest.
Why did you choose to work with Pinot Noir for your inaugural bottling?
I will be focussing production on Pinot Noir as our climate and soil type is best suited for this cultivar and named my wine Tesselaarsdal, honouring my history and continuing my family legacy.
What are your future plans for Tesselaarsdal? Do you want to remain a Pinot Noir specialist or work with any of the other exciting up and coming grape varietals in South Africa?
Going forward I would definitely be interested in producing Chardonnay as well which would either be from Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge or Overberg region.
Besides Tesselaarsdal and Hamilton Russell, what wines have influenced your winemaking? Do you have a favorite wine region outside of South Africa?
We often reference to Burgundy and I suppose my palate is very much shaped by these great wines. I love the diversity of wines in South Africa, am particularly fond of Pinot noir produced in our area, but have been following the production of new wave Pinotage in South Africa with great interest.
How has the project been received in South Africa? I've seen the excellent press from Greg Sherwood, MW and winemag.co.za.