Words and pictures by Greg Landman
Dewaldt was born in Malmesbury, a fact each softly rolling ‘r’ still betrays charmingly. He grew up on a wine farm there and says he was close to the earth and wanted to become a farmer until he realised he could be both farmer and winemaker – a double win.
After graduating from Elsenburg, he began work at Rust en Vrede with Kevin Arnold who, he says, played a significant role in the way he regards wine. Then followed a period at the newly established Avondale, where he made their maiden vintage before he joined Saronsberg at its inception in 2003. Dewaldt has worked in Sonoma, USA, and also in France, which he says broadened his horizons, and he is a member of the prestigious Cape Wine Guild.
He lives at Saronsberg with his wife Tania, who does translating and editing work, and their youngsters Sebastian (6) and Nina (3), who have the privilege of growing up, as he did, on a farm.
The Tulbagh area lies cradled like a child in the crook of its mother’s arm and in the embrace of three mountain ranges – the Witzenberg, the Obiqua and the Winterhoek, which tower in a vast amphitheatre as far as the eye can see. The only way that lies open is towards the faraway sea across the Breede Valley.
The setting is magnificent but also has a tension that showed itself in the devastating 1969 earthquake that razed most of the town. Winters here are rough with snow on the mountains; summers are, by contrast, scorching at times. This results in unique fruit, and wine, of course.
In this historic valley, a significant new player in wine terms is the Saronsberg Estate where winemaker Dewaldt Heyns plies his trade with great skill. His wines are packed with delicious fruit flavours, nice and intense without being overpowering. They all pay tribute to his belief that ”vineyards and wine have a soul that is palpable. Wine is a miracle.”
His decade plus at Saronsberg has resulted in many awards both here and abroad for his exceptional wines. He says, “We should make wine with a definite SA identity, otherwise you’re a copy of an overseas version – and even a good copy is still a copy.” Something of which he can’t be accused.