Meet the winemaker: Jacques Roux was born in 1976 in Stellenbosch and grew up between the vineyards of the Middelvlei Wine Estate.
“There was always wine from the surrounding cellars on our table,” he says. So you’d think it would be a natural that he’d want to become a winemaker. However, he enrolled at Stellenbosch to do a CA and only discovered in his second year that he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life wearing a tie. Not having the necessary subjects for a winemaking diploma, he went back to school to get them and enrolled at Elsenburg in 1997.
He and his wife Jeanne-Mari live in Robertson, in a house her grandfather built in the early 1940s, with their children Imke and Ernst . He says, “In a larger town, you’re just a number. In Robertson you’re part of the community; everybody is sharing. You are somebody.”
The family loves holidaying at their house by the sea in Hartenbos. Jacques believes it’s essential to spend time overseas, especially in France, “to steal with my eyes and ears”, which has obviously added immeasurably to his knowledge. The couple loves cooking (he used to work for a large catering company when he was a student, learning “a lot of the finer details”). When they’re at the family farm in Victoria West he cooks “day and night in the big farm kitchen, especially with merino lamb”.
The Robertson Wine Valley is one of the most beautiful places in the Cape. It stretches from McGregor to Montagu and Ashton, from Robertson to Bonnievale. Route 62 is its main artery but its heart is the Breede River, without which it would be barren, being right on the border of the Klein Karoo area. In Robertson itself, you’ll find Robertson Winery, a major player in the local wine industry, the third-largest by volume. It belongs to 35 owners, all of whom have farms in the area and who supply grapes to be made into their increasingly excellent wines.
The range is enormous, encompassing more than 80 wines marketed under seven labels, from very familiar boxed wines, to brandies and bubblies, from sweet wines to international, award-winning wines, very much in demand. The wines are made by a talented team of winemakers who have to stay sharp to produce the 18 million litres of wine that come from here annually.
Jacques Roux is a specialty winemaker, who is passionate and totally focused; he lives and breathes wine. He has been there since 2001 and when asked if he would consider moving on, “What? I’m working for the best cellar in South Africa! Would you expect the winemaker at Château Pétrus to resign?” Indeed not. That’s what I call dedication.
We got to linger a little longer with Jacques and ask a few more questions so we could get to know him better:
Can you describe the best glass of wine you’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking?
1982 Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon Bin … auction selection – Perfect balance between fruit, wood and structure…
And the worst?
That is a secret, the owner of the estate will “kill” me if I reveal the name here.
Is there something that makes South African wines special? Can you describe it?
The diversity of the different terroirs and the expression of terroir in the wines…and the passion of the South African winemakers.
What do you find attracts you to people—as friends?
Characteristics such as loyalty, honesty and optimism.
What do you like most about yourself?
My ability to stay humble.
When in your life have you been happiest—till now?
When my two children were born, 13 March 2005 & 17 January 2008.
What can you just not do without in your life?
When do you think it is right to tell a teensie weeny lie?
When your eight year old boy asks you “ if you are the strongest man on earth.”
When have you been most bored?
I am always busy with something and I don’t get bored often.
Constitution Road Chardonnay 2013
Gold winner at the Chardonnay du Monde, this superb wine is packed with fruit flavours and complexities. New French oak makes all the difference. Frankly I would have it solo, very cold, as an aperitif. Too good for food. R115 at the cellar.
Constitution Road Shiraz 2013
Another Gold winner and 4½ stars in the Platter‘s Wine Guide. Succulently rich with deep, dark-berry flavours with some typical spice. Perfect with red-meat roasts and casseroles. Nice long finish. R180.
Gewürtztraminer Special Late Harvest 2015
This rose-scented charmer with well-balanced sweetness and acids is perfect for lovers of this kind of wine. Extra interest from a touch of honeyed botrytis. Serve cold either on its own or with soft cheeses like Brie. A bargain at R45.
Robertson Winery, Constitution Road, Robertson, 023 626 7080