Lelie van Saron
In the industry since 2012
Awarded Best Cinsaut of the Year (2015)
In 2011, after three weeks at Stellenbosch University, Natasha Williams called her father. She needed to head home to Saron (in the Western Cape) for a visit and some fresh air. ‘There was just too much traffic in Stellenbosch!’ She remains anchored to the small town she grew up in. In fact, one day she plans to invest in her community, particularly in terms of education.
Back at university, a chance encounter with a winemaking student prompted a change of course for Natasha. She shifted her studies from microbiology to viticulture. Both fields appealed to her love of science and nature; and to her practical approach to the world. ‘I used to check out car engines with my dad.’ But Natasha saw more opportunity in the wine industry. There was some grumbling from Saron – her parents took a conservative approach to alcohol – but Natasha persevered. She quotes Maya Angelou: ‘A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretence, and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.’
As someone who had only had their first drink at university, her palate-training was precipitous. But there was an ‘aha moment’ when the class sampled Gewürztraminer. ‘I could taste my mother’s Turkish delight sweets!’ After graduating, Natasha was soon applying for winemaking positions, and was offered a junior spot at Bosman Family Vineyards. She remains there today – although now as winemaker. The river flows.
In 2016, she grabbed the chance to experience a harvest abroad – in California, with Merry Edwards. The following year, she travelled through France via its vineyards. But her thoughts were never far from Saron. ‘I realised I wanted to bring my culture to wine, not bring wine to my culture.’ So, alongside her ‘day job’ at Bosman, she developed her own label: Lelie van Saron. The name is a play on ‘roos van Saron’; a phrase her community uses to describe a woman from their town. ‘But I associate my childhood with lilies!’
Natasha regards herself as a facilitator, intervening in the fermentation process when necessary, but never forcing it. She is meticulous and genuine, thoughtful and humble. Her wines, unsurprisingly, are thoroughly honest.