In the industry since 2002
Awarded five stars in Platter’s Wine Guide (2016)
Tania Kleintjies heads up organic wine production at Spier. She started out at the estate as assistant red winemaker in 2007, before shifting into the role of Quality Control Manager five years later. She was good at it, but the position wasn’t for her. ‘I didn’t enjoy being a policeman at all!’ So, when the opportunity presented itself to return to the cellar in 2015, she put up her hand. The organic wine production process is labour intensive, and needs to be handled with care – so Tania’s natural attention to detail proved invaluable. These days, Spier can’t keep up with demand. ‘It’s a good stress.’
She claims to be supremely practical. As someone who dislikes crowds, Tania goes precision-shopping with a strict timetable. She resists ‘snobby words’ when introducing her wines to someone new. She likes to check things off a list. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a bit of a rebel… As the first in her family to pursue winemaking, her choice of study alone – a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Stellenbosch, followed by her Masters – was contentious. ‘Most of my relatives thought a proper job came with a suit.’ She only found out much later that her career path marked something of a closing of the loop. A great-grandfather had worked on wine farms and was paid via the dop system. So, in the vineyards, Tania has reimagined her family tree.
Come harvest time, hers is a task of minimal intervention, of not-adding and of remaining patient. Grapes are picked in separate increments across the same block, pulling acid from the first batch and flavour from the last. Everyone works as cleanly as possible to avoid the need for anti-microbials. ‘And then we just pray!’
Tania is still sometimes asked if she works in marketing or sales at Spier. And she waves away comments such as ‘you don’t look like a winemaker’ without taking it too personally. But, despite pockets of people putting in the work, she believes the pace of industry transformation is too slow. We need to invent a South African way of progressing – and it may be time for a checklist.