Q & A With Alexander Milner

We had planned a relaxed weekend away in my favorite place, Stellenbosch and we stumbled upon the Natte Valleij wine farm. On arrival we met with Char who showed us around the farm and introduced us to her son Alexander.

Alexander immediately took us to his wine making plant. A rustic barn filled with all sorts of treasures. We spoke for about hour about wine, life, France and his incredibly busy career thus far.

As we had loads to do we made plans to meet on Sunday to carry on with the chat. Alexander finished his B.Sc. in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch in 2005. He has spent a season in France working at the Domaine de Triennes wine estate http://www.triennes.com/en/ and some time at the York winery http://www.yorkwinery.com in India.His favorite variety of grape is Cinsault followed closely by Hanepoort and if he could work anywhere in the world it would be Loire in France. He says that there is so much to work with and that the wine makers are so exciting.

Apart from making the wine at Natte Valleij he makes wine in partnership with Stefan Gerber. Together they make the Boer & Brit range. Names like “The General, the Field Marshal and Suikerbossie Ek Wil Jou He” make up this interesting range. http://www.boerandbrit.com/

Alexander is the youngest of three brothers. He has a passion for cycling and he has taken part in the Giro del Capo, which used to precede the Argus cycle tour. He recalls cycling with the now famous Chris Froome http://www.chris-froome.com/

The chat strayed a little of pace and the question of which three guests he would invite to dinner popped up. He mentioned that Lance Armstrong and Rowan Atkinson would be great contenders. His third person would definitely be his wife, Sumari. I can imagine the conversation around that table.

We tasted a few of his wine from Natte Valleij. http://www.nattevalleij.co.za/

Natte Valleij P.O.W.

P.O.W, is the long awaited blend. It has taken the Natte Valleij team 4 years to produce a wine they feel can represent the farm name. It is a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, age for 24 months in 500L French barrels. It oozes old world character and elegance. It is named after an unknown Italian prisoner of war (P.O.W) that left an inscription, dated 27/12/1943, on a wall of one of the buildings at Natte Valleij.

Natte Valleij Cinsault

The father to our national varietal Pinotage and once stalwart red varietal of the industry, Cinsault has since fallen into obscurity. Affectionately still called Hermitage by the many old timers, it creates superbly drinkable wines festooned with red fruits, spice and surprising structure to age gracefully. This tribute to our winemaking past was hand crafted from a forgotten patch of bush vines that have resolutely withstood the tempest of wine globalization and showcases this varietal’s essence.

Natte Valleij Hanepoot

The origins of the name Hanepoot come from Afrikaans translated hane cockerel + poot claw referring to the underside of the leaves similarity to a chicken’s foot. Its origin is said to be near the ancient harbour of Alexandria, hence its more fashionable name Muscat d’ Alexandrie. In South Africa it was one of the first arrivals to our shores. It is a varietal which has fallen along the roadside of fashion, but posses a mind boggling array of aromatics and an innate ability of crafting fun, yet thoughtful wines – especially from the low yielding old vines which still exist around the Cape.

The Swallow range

Named after the Swallows that return each year to breed in the cellars at Natte Valleij. They are wines of elegance and drinkability that can be enjoyed on all occasions. Aged for 12 months in small French Barrels an eclectic blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Petit Verdot and Cinsault. Blended from four different wine growing regions from bush vines high against the Bainskloof Mountains to vines high in the Stellenbosch hills.

Thank you to Alexander for taking the time to chat to the Wine Taster.