What does it mean to be named Diner’s Club 2012 Winemaker of the Year?
It is an extraordinary honour. By winning in the dessert wine category, I am able to pay tribute to two great winemakers who have influenced me profoundly. The one is my father, the late Mihai Macici, who was a doyen of dessert wines in Romania, where I was born. The other is Gunter Brozel, a previous Nederburg winemaster, who made South Africa's first noble late harvest wine in 1969 and over the years created a worldwide following for his many dessert wines. He also won the Diners Club Award in 1983 and 1985, so now, after an interval of nearly 30 years, Nederburg has won it again!
How would you describe your winning wine?
The 2007 Nederburg Eminence is a gorgeous gold, wonderfully perfumed and shows purity of floral flavours so typical of the Muscat grape variety. It has a very fine balance between sweetness and acidity. It's delightfully fresh in the mouth with a long aftertaste.
With what types of food do I enjoy this wine?
A few years ago, we did a very interesting pairing exercise, featuring some of our sweet wines. We paired each course from the starter all the way through to the dessert with a sweet wine. The idea was to demonstrate how versatile these wines can be when paired imaginatively. For me, this is a wine to be enjoyed with liver patés and terrines and also, delicate, fruit-based desserts.
What do you look for in a great dessert wine? Is dessert wine sexy?
Very sexy, yes! The goal is always to achieve complexity and a fine balance between sweetness and acidity. Without the acidity, such wines could be overwhelming, cloying and fatiguing. It's the acidity that keeps them lively and refreshing.
You have won a lot of local and international awards than most people in your industry. What, in your opinion, makes you different?
I don't think it is me but the way we work at Nederburg. We invest extensively in vineyard and cellar research, we have access to the studies of some of the world's top wine producers and give a great deal of focus to viticulture. We even have our own vineyard nursery where we propagate superior plant material for our vineyards. By spending so much of our attention on the siting of vineyards, the choice of vines and how they are treated, we are able to work with the very best quality grapes. Our cellars are also very well equipped. Right the way through from the soil to the glass, we are very detail-oriented because sometimes it is the small things that can have the biggest impact. Finally, everyone involved in making Nederburg wines functions as a close-knit team.
As a winemaker, what’s your wine making secret?
Never overlook the detail and give the same respect to every wine you make from the specialty, collector's item to the wine intended for simple, everyday enjoyment.
How would you compare South Africa to other countries, especially France, Italy and Spain, as the three leading wine producing countries world-wide?
South Africa is positioned as offering the best of the Old and New Worlds. Our wines in this country combine classical structure and the ability to age with more modern, purity of fruit flavour.
How would you describe SA’s wine drinking culture from your native country, Romania?
It is tremendously exciting to see how the interest in and appreciation for wine is growing in this country. I have been living here continuously since 1997 and every year I am aware of more wine festivals, exhibitions, wine tasting events and other ways in which South Africans are immersing themselves in the culture, traditions and experience of wine.
Do you consider yourself a South African now after so many years living here?
You have obviously never heard me at a Springbok rugby match! Totally. I have been living here since 1997. I am married to a South African and we have three beautiful South African-born children.
Strengths of SA wine industry?
We are innovative and early adopters of new ideas and technology, we are not constrained by legislation in terms of siting vineyards in new wine-growing areas, as some European countries are, for example. We are very progressive when it comes to caring for the environment and to promoting conservation.
Biggest changes in the SA wine industry over the past ten years?
We are making wines that are more finessed and graceful. We are experimenting with lesser-known varietals and more of our winemakers are working abroad to gain international exposure to wine-growing and winemaking.
Favourite things to do?
You mean apart from making wine? Spending time with the family, Saturdays at Newlands with my friends, reading, cooking, painting and travelling.
Best wine moment?
It has to be receiving the trophy for the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year 2012.
Guilty pleasures in life?
Good food...it has started to show!
Which wine would I find now in your house?
Ingenuity White 2011, Ingenuity Red 2009, The Motorcycle Marvel 2009, The Brew Master 2009, The Winemaster’s Reserve Riesling and Nederburg Eminence 2007.
What does the future holds for you?
I hope it gives me the opportunity to make more Nederburg wines and to enjoy good times with my family and friends.