Karin was born in Bellville and grew up in Durbanville. She has two brothers, one of whom is also a winemaker, in Vredendal.
There was always wine on the table in their home and the youngsters, her husband, Jean, who is the viticulturist at Klein Roosboom, from where the vast majority of the grapes go to surrounding winemakers – the big boys – who love their quality. Karen is a mother of three grown children, Nicol, Marné and Johan, all of whom are lucky to have wines named after them.
She was drawn to winemaking by wanting to make her own MCC, something she has done with great success. Her romantic side is strong as is apparent on the delightful labels of her wines, and on the one dedicated to her husband. Karin says she likes to “get down and dirty in the cellar“ when making wine, something she does with gusto.
Winemaking is followed by yoga in the cellar, which she feels is the perfect ending to a perfect process. Karen and Jean live on the Klein Roosboom farm and love to escape to the solitude of the West Coast whenever they can. “Work is my hobby,“ says Karen. “Winemaking is my life and writing is my passion.”
The rolling hills of the Durbanville Wine Valley hide many a secret in their folds. The cool breezes that come up from the nearby Atlantic calm the vines down at their most vulnerable time, the fierce summer, when they are ripening. This yields some really superb fruit, perfect for making wines of superior quality.
One of the treasures here is the Klein Roosboom estate, a delight to visit. Karin de Villiers, owner and winemaker, is an attractive, vivacious brunette. You can’t imagine her ever getting her hands dirty, but she’s making excellent, award-winning wines in boutique quantities to satisfy a discerning and growing number of devotees.
Karin has remodelled old cement wine chambers into the cosiest little rooms, quirkily decorated, where you can taste some of her wines. You can also order a platter of charcuterie, fresh bread and smoked trout, and lounge around à l’égyptienne, a pastime that customers love. If the weather is playing ball, outside under large umbrellas is another good option.
Karin has an excellent MCC named after her daughter, Marné, which a consultant made according to Karin’s specs. Her reds are knockouts, intensely dark and delicious. Her motto is, “You always have to play a bit in life,” which she says with a twinkle in her eye, but I’m convinced she plays on her terms.
Can you describe the best glass of wine you’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking?
Wine is about being in the moment – It is all about occasions. It is a culture. It is a way of life. The best wines I’ve had were with good friends surrounded by great food in beautiful settings enjoying laughter, music and banter.
And the worst?
I must have blocked it out, because nothing comes to mind…
Is there something that makes South African wines special? Can you describe it?
The people that work in the industry is what makes our wines so special. That and the taste of passion!
What do you find attracts you to people—as friends?
Humour, humour, humour , trust and being uncomplicated. I don’t do drama! I don’t do fake!
What do you like most about yourself?
This is a very hard question. I think the fact that I can work my tail off and still surprise myself with new ideas.
Trying to do 645 things at once – My children all say that I would have been on Ritalin if I was at school now!
When in your life have you been happiest—till now?
Now! Today! We need to create our own moments and simply be at peace with ourselves to be ecstatically happy every day. I know it sounds very “Miss Congenialityish”, but we all know that life is a series of ups and downs and we simply need to surf the wave.
What can you just not do without in your life?
Moments of total stillness. Solitude. Having time to write. Time to think. – And always having a good chilled bottle of champagne at hand.
When do you think it is right to tell a teensie weeny lie?
I would love to say NEVER, but sometimes we need to bend the truth a teensie weensie bit – especially if someone asks you to taste their (bland/not so great) food and then ask: “So, what do you think?”
When have you been most bored?
On Sunday afternoons when my parents took a nap and we had to be quiet and were not allowed to go into the field across our home to catch tadpoles and “gooi kleilat” and ride bicycles/ play in our “boomhuis” or play with the other kids in the street. As you can see, I did not speel pop much!
High heels or flats?
Flats mostly, but oh boy I become a totally different person on the odd occasion that I “don” my heels. It doesn’t happen very often, seeing that I suspect that I have the same shoe size as Cinderella’s step sister!
Named after Karin’s son, Nicol, ‘uniquely individual and bold’, it’s packed with aromas of dark-red berries and spicy nuances, yet it’s elegant and smooth. Plays well with game fish and fillet steak.
Dedicated to her other son, Johan, ‘strong and robust – an explosion of wild berries and plums’, I couldn’t say it better. Totally delicious and satisfying. Perfect with charcuterie and red-meat casseroles.
This superb Shiraz is made for Jean’s mother, ‘met liefde’, a fitting gift for the matriarch of the family. Beautifully structured, complex and appealing to the eye and nose. At its best at a braai or with creamy cheeses.
Words: Greg Landman