Meet the Winemaker: Hagen Viljoen
By Greg Landman
Thirty-two-year-old Hagen grew up in Ceres on a fruit farm. His father, who owns a safari company, is a great cook and there was always wine in the home. Hagen initially enrolled at Stellenbosch to do an engineering degree, but soon became beguiled by the wine muse and switched to oenology and viticulture. His first internships were at Fleur du Cap and Boschendal, followed by overseas experience at Mendocino in California, New Zealand, Australia and Saint-Émilion in France.
On his return in 2009, he worked at Nederburg and Vergelegen before joining Solms-Delta in 2012, where he and his wife, Nicola, also a winemaker, live on an adjacent farm. The couple are expecting twins, which should put paid to his mountain biking, hunting, and fishing pursuits for a while. They both love cooking and have a small circle of like-minded young friends, who are lucky enough to be entertained at their home.
The people at Solms-Delta in Franschhoek are very conscious of their role in maintaining the deep traditions of the inhabitants of the area, and maintaining the ethos that is very much their own, unique feeling of being. As you drive up the avenue to the tasting area and their restaurant, which is called Fyndraai, you are immediately aware of the beauty of the place, with the magnificent Drakenstein Mountains holding the farm in their protective embrace. The wines have catchy Cape names like Lekkerwijn, Vastrap, and Gemoedsrus. The names may be quirky, but do not think the wines are not the real thing. They are excellent examples of what can be done when a winemaker stays focused.
The young winemaker here, Hagen Viljoen, is very aware of his task, not only to make excellent wine, but to nurture the place Solms-Delta has in the bigger scheme of things. “The quality must come from the vineyards,” he says. “I dislike manipulation and respect Mother Nature too much to interfere.” He has a penchant for Rhône varietals, so you will find Roussanne, Cinsaut and Viognier in his blends. Take a drive out there and try them for yourself – you will not be disappointed.
SOLMS-DELTA FRANSCHHOEK 021 874 3937 www.solms-delta.co.za
As the wine writer for Country Life magazine for the last 15 years, Greg has met and interviewed more than 150 of the country’s top wine makers. His articles offer unique insights into where to eat, what to drink, and where to go all over the Western Cape. With his dining companion Beryl Ormsby Browne, he has also reviewed more than 60 country restaurants for the magazine and has been a reviewer for the prestigious Eat Out Guide for 12 years. His passion for everything the winelands has to offer has led him into the world of wine tours. To find out more, visit his website Magic Grape Tours.