Dirk was born in 1985 in George where he grew up on a farm. His father loved wine and there was always wine at home so he was no stranger to the grape.
Glowing accolades from the places he worked at in Australia, such as Zilzie Wines and Benziger in Sonoma, USA, show that L’Avenir was lucky to snap him up when they did. Of winemaking he says, “I love holding something that I have made in my hands.”
In his spare time he enjoys surfing, jogging, cycling and golf, and aspires to take part in the Ironman Triathlon. His hobby is woodwork, “I want to make tables for all my friends so they will think of me every time they sit down to eat.” He also likes to cook traditional Sunday roasts, as well as meat dishes and pasta.
Dirk lives on the estate but travels often for L’Avenir to Europe and Russia. Last year he spent two-and-a-half weeks touring the wine estates of Europe with his fiancée. But he says, “My favourite place to holiday is the Wilderness, near where I grew up.” In short, he’s an amiable sportsman who can cook, and just happens to be an award-winning winemaker – a perfect combination.
The L’Avenir estate in Stellenbosch is positioned to take advantage of the spectacular views that abound there. It’s also home to a restaurant serving bistro-style food, and a guest house with all the mod cons.
The estate belongs to French group Advini, that has vineyards in France, South Africa and Chile, but the terroir is quintessentially as South African as are the wines produced here.
L’Avenir is known for its wonderful Chenins and superb Pinotage. The beautiful Pinotage Deck at the highest point on the farm is just the place to do a tasting. Winemaker Dirk Coetzee has been there since 2009 and is making fabulous wines that continue the legacy of L’Avenir.
“I always want to surf in the deepest waters, and jump off the highest mountain,” he says, which ties in with his philosophy of pushing boundaries. However he does this without disturbing the traditional methods that form the basis of his wine philosophy and he easily combines French and South African sensibilities.
Dirk is intensely focused but has an easy-going nature, which masks that intensity to the casual observer. His extensive winemaking experience in Australia and the US, has provided a great foundation from which he will continue to grow. L’Avenir means ‘the future’ in French, which seems quite prophetic in a way.
Can you describe the best glass of wine you’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking?
I personally believe that it’s not always about the best wine you drink, but about the best wine experience you’ve had. These types of experiences are influenced by many factors: the food, the atmosphere and the company when having this special wine. If I may highlight a specific moment in my life where I had a great wine experience, I’ll say having exquisite snails paired with 2006 Riesling from the Alsace region in St Emilion at the Lard et Bouchon Restaurant with my fiancée. I can’t even remember the name of the wine, I can just remember that it was magic.
And the worst?
Having good wine out of a bad quality glass is the worst wine you can ever drink. Even worse than that is when you are served wine that’s been sitting next to a machine of some sort that’s exerting heat, and then being served ‘warm’ wine in a bad quality glass! Yes, I’m a wine glass snob. Once you become a winemaker I believe your level of criticism towards bad wine decreases, but still your comments should be direct, fair and open-minded.
What makes South African wines special? Can you describe it?
Our diversity within our ancient soils makes South African wines unique. You can compare the diversity of our wines with the diversity of our country’s people. I believe that South African wines are, most of the time, a good combination of old world vs. new world wines. You’ll find the elegance and the finesse of the old world, but also a little bit of the robustness of the new world in our wines. I would attribute that to the sun, the one thing South Africans cannot go without. Price vs Quality will always be a mind blowing factor of South African wines.
What do you find attracts you to people—as friends?
I’m an easy going person when socialising, thus I feel that people can be at ease and be themselves around me. Whenever I meet new people, I immediately ‘click’ with them if they appear to be a ‘lekker mens’, have a good sense of humor and obviously if they can join me for a fine glass of wine.
What do you like most about yourself?
I enjoy my impulsive behavior and the fact that I’m not really judgmental.
I dislike the fact that I always see my job as a passion and not a job. Reasons are that I’ll spend hours working and sometimes neglect spending time with people close to me.
When in your life have you been happiest—till now?
I’m always trying to be happy and enjoy the stage of life that I find myself in. I have to admit that my happy place is where I grew up, “Wilderness”. Being 15 years old and totally careless and free of life’s demands was great.
What can you just not do without in your life?
Spiritually the Lord and obviously my family, but the two earthly things that I can’t go without are the ocean and bread.
When do you think it is right to tell a teensie weeny lie?
When you want to spare someone’s feelings.
When have you been most bored?
Whenever I have to spend too much time indoors I get very bored.
I get excited when I can take my dog to the beach. I surf and he runs. It makes us feel free!
The wine delivers a surprisingly dry mouth feel with well-controlled acids. Full of tropical fruit aromas on the nose. Great food wine especially well-matched to smoked salmon. Try it with this smoked salmon gnocchi recipe. R60
Unoaked quaffer with plenty of fruit. Light and easy to drink with just the right amount of acidity. Full and rich in the mouth. Think of roast chicken or pork or just on its own. R80
A multi-award winner that has spent 15 months in French oak. Intense dark-berry flavours with well-controlled tannins result in a medium-bodied wine with an exceptional nose. As with all red wines, cool to 16°, then serve with steak. R120
L’Avenir Estate, R44 Stellenbosch, 021 889 5001
Words: Greg Landman