Greg Landman visits Boplaas and meets Margaux Nel
In the Klein Karoo, Calitzdorp’s arid conditions and soils are similar to Portugal’s Douro Valley – no wonder it is known as the Port Capital of SA. Here, far from the French influence of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, you will find major makers of robust, distinctive wines, as well as varietals used in Port (like Tinta Barocca and Touriga Nacional), plus fabulous brandies and an array of stickies like muscadels and hanepoots.
Boplaas has been in current owner Carel Nel’s family since 1880. Today, the winemaking is in the hands of his attractive, no-nonsense daughter, Margaux Nel. She has plenty of talent of her own and is making wines that are distinctively Boplaas but reveal her own style without deviating from what devotees of this brand expect.
She says, “Wine cannot be made to a recipe, as each year is different and has its own challenges.” Her sense of humour and down-to-earth approach to everything obviously stand her in good stead in a tough business.
“Wine cannot be made to a recipe, as each year is different and it has its own changes”
Margaux Nel is named after Château Margaux, a bottle of which her parents had consumed in Bordeaux on the night of her conception. Born in 1984, she grew up at Boplaas and, as a youngster, “could eat a whole box of figs, to the dismay of my parents”. Her sister, Rozanne, does the marketing at Boplaas, and her brother, Daniel, is at university. With a Master’s degree in viticulture, she backs her natural talent with plenty of scientific knowledge.
She has travelled with her parents to all the major wine countries (“a holiday without wine isn’t a holiday”), and enjoys mountain biking, pottery and painting. Her significant other cooks well, so she doesn’t interfere. She dreams of “going into space. It would also be awesome to jump out of a plane.” Well!