I moved to Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands in 1981 and was immediately influenced by the surrounding vineyards and ever present wine activities. In 1982 and 1983, I completed wine courses with KWV, in those days in parallel with the Cape Wine Academy and began working on a wine estate selling valley wines and hosting private functions.
From there I worked for two other wine estates with a focus on international trade. This brought me in contact with the international wine market and led to invitations to judge at the International Wine Challenge in London. With numerous contacts I found myself visiting other wine producing countries including France, Italy, Germany, Austria and later, California. I have also exhibited South African wines in the UK and the USA, where I represented the South African wine industry at an international seminar in Washington DC. I have also visited other wine producing countries such as Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand.
Today I have a small export company in Franschhoek. I am a member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs and on the Western Cape committee of the ‘Chaine’, as well as Vice Echanson of the same organisation, responsible for arranging wine and spirit orientated events for members. I am also a tour guide specialising in wine tours for foreign visitors.
Interview with Mark
When did you discover your passion for wine?
My interest in wine is probably due to my family having been wine merchants in the UK since 1842. The fruits of the vine have never been far away. After coming to live in Franschhoek it was an easy step to develop a passion for the wines and those who made them.
What are your key highlights of the Fraschhoek Valley wine region?
Franschhoek Valley highlights are concentrated on mountain scenery and Cape Dutch architecture as well as just wine and food. Franschhoek must have the highest ratio of restaurants per capita in South Africa. As with the wines, the restaurants cater for all tastes and budgets.
When are the best times to visit Fraschhoek Valley?
For me the best time to visit here would be in spring (October/November). At this time of the year the current vintage white wines are appearing and the valley is a verdant green from the winter rains. The winemakers now have time for visits/discussions and the climate is neither too hot nor cold. One also avoids the holiday masses.
Do you have a personal favourite winery in the region and if so why?
My favourite winery would be Stoney Brook. A small family owned operation, Stoney Brook offers quality boutique wines at good prices and one always meets a family member when calling there. It is a place to experience the genuine passion that goes into wine production.
Franschhoek Valley is known to be the gourmet capital of South Africa. What is a traditional local wine and food pairing dish?
Perhaps the best food and wine pairing would be Franschhoek trout, lightly smoked together with a local unwooded chardonnay. Some restaurants offer this on their menus. There are plenty more but this comes to mind immediately.
Finally, which wine region in the world would you like to visit next?
Where next…Georgia. This is the birthplace of wine such as we know it and the history of making wine in clay vessels buried in the ground is a traditional gem.