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To Be or not To Be a Winemaker

BTN Interviews some of the world's top winemakers on the reason's behind their decision to become wine makers.

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The wine business is one of the most hands-on ventures in the world. Whether you are simply a label-owner or a fully committed winery owner, there are countless things to consider before you even start production.

From grape growing, pressing and bottling, to marketing, distribution and sales, understanding how to successfully take a wine to market starts with being able to put together the right team. One of the most important decisions is who will be the face behind your labels. Winemakers are some of the most passionate people in the industry and their creations can make or break a label.


Here is an inside peak at some of the reasons why the world's top winemakers decided to become the professionals they are today.

Roberto de la Mota- Winemaker and Partner of “Mendel Wines”. Mendoza, Argentina. 

How did you decide to become a Winemaker

In my case, it was really easy.  The decision to be become a winemaker had everything to do with my father and my childhood. My father was an Enologist. Until the age of 14, we lived in a house which was on the grounds of the Arizu Winery. I used to play in the vineyards and in the winery every afternoon after school. Vineyards, wine and the life of a winemaker are all things that came very naturally to me.

I always loved the field of agriculture.  At one point I decided to focus my studies on Enology, but while I was visiting Mendoza my father’s friend, the famous Emile Peynaud, told me that I should study Agronomy, Viticulture and then Enology, so I went to the Ecole National Superieur Agronomique de Montpellier and received the National Enologist of France degree.

What do you like the most about your career?

I think that winemaking provides an endless oppurtunity to create something special which expresses a region and their people.  It's that oppurtunity (and responsibility) that makes my career so special to me.

Hernâni Magalhães Enologist - Winemaker of Fine Portuguese Wines


How did you decide to become a Winemaker?

The culture in Portugal is deeply linked to grape and wine production. Porto was the first DOC and that was the starting point for quality wine production. My family lived in Trás-os-Montes, which is a region with many small producers doing what we call "garage wines."  Early in my life, I remember both of my grandfathers working in the vineyards and producing wine. In the 'traditional' way of wine making in our region, fermentation was something of a "mystery" and there were some "rituals" that are expected to work.  I liked the idea of perfecting those rituals and becoming one of the best winemakers in the world - and here I am today!  I always felt that there should be a scientific way for wine-making, I was some kind of a "geek".

There is only one University with a degree in Oenology in Portugal and, when I had to decide, there was always and only one answer, taking a degree in Oenology. I had the fortune to study all the subjects I love, chemistry, physics, mathematics, microbiology and applying the theoretical knowledge to the University vineyards and winery.

What do you like the most about your career?

I started working in one of the biggest wineries in Portugal, so I had the opportunity with many grape varieties from all sorts of different regions. It was one of the most exciting periods of my life.  Since I had several different wines to taste and study on a daily basis, I was able to truly explore my one-real passion.

I also learned a very valuable lesson. You can do everything right all year, but it only takes one week of bad weather at harvest and all our efforts are gone.  This is one of those things that makes me love my career so much.  You have to be very passionate and very thorough in your work to make sure you have the best possible chance at making something really special.

Luca and Ingrid Bein Owners/winegrowers at Bein Wine Cellar. South Africa.


How did you decide to become Winemakers?

Originally from Switzerland, with an old passion for wine and South Africa, we bought a piece of land in the heart of the Stellenbosch Winelands in 1993. Having worked for many years as veterinary practitioners back in Switzerland, we decided we wanted a career change and went back to University.  Four years later, we emerged with a B.Sc. as enologists and viticulturists. Today, we focus whole-heartedly on the production of our quality Merlot and do everything ourselves - from planting to marketing.

What do you like the most about your career?

As possibly the smallest wine farm in the Cape, Bein Wine consists of only one single vineyard of Merlot and an accordingly small, but nifty, boutique wine cellar. This small size creates an ideal environment for implementing our ambitious quality objectives. Moreover, it allows for the most caring and socio-ecologically responsible viti-viniculture, an indispensable precondition for true quality production. That said, our ultimate goal is to produce an outstanding Merlot wine, complex but elegant.  We strive for a perfect balance between primary fruit und sweet-spicy barrel flavors. We are dedicated to uncompromising quality from planting to bottling and we hope this will find its expression in the wine and eventually the consumer's appreciation.

Susana Balbo Winemaker and Owner at Dominio del Plata Winery. Mendoza, Argentina.


Why did you decide to become a winemaker?

Wine has been a part of my life ever since I’ve been a child. I grew up in a traditional Italian family where wine was an everyday beverage. Even though I grew up immersed in a wine culture, I originally applied to go away to university to study nuclear physics. However, this choice was unconventional, and my parents did not allow me to follow through with it. I stayed in Mendoza to become an enologist, which was also an unconventional choice at the time.  However, it w keep me closer to home. So in short, I did not really decide to become a winemaker, I sort of just fell into the profession.

What do you like the most about your career?

To me, the creative process of winemaking as a whole is my favorite aspect of the profession. To have a vision of what the final product should be, and complete all the necessary steps along the way in order to achieve this vision. At times the process runs smoothly, but at other times there are many bumps along the road. Being able to “roll with the punches”, and still persevere to reach that final product is my favorite part of the job. The entrepreneurial spirit has been another part of the profession that I love. I am now able to create wines that live up to my vision of what they should be because I have my own winery. The work and dedication it took to create my own brand was in many ways similar to making my wines.

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