Carrie’s Corner: Catherine Marshall, a jewel in the crown of SA winemaking

Renowned winemaker Catherine Marshall joined Carrie Adams for the BizNews festive Friday. After graduating, Marshall landed apprenticeships at a number of local cellars and obtained winemaking experience overseas, spending time in France and the US. She has received many awards – both locally and internationally – and has served as a cellar master at numerous wineries. Despite the lengthy list of accolades, Adams describes Catherine Marshall as ‘modesty personified’. – Jarryd Neves

Catherine Marshall on the upcoming harvest:

 I’m currently topping and filling barrels at the moment, with the new Pinot. It’s all very exciting. The birth has begun, my thirtieth odd vintage. [A lot of the fruit comes from Elgin], but I’ve started dabbling with other areas as well, but predominantly Elgin. It’s an area that I’ve been involved with since 2004 and it’s probably one of the most beautiful valleys around.

On her background and unique labels:

Back in the day, the landscape of winemaking was very different and there weren’t many paintings around, if I recall. I think I was really taken with Mouton Rothschild. On every vintage they would have a different artist like Picasso or Matisse – all of these wonderful artists. I was really captivated by that because I like to see myself as an artist.

I actually should have been doing doing art, because that is really my one of my huge passions. I figured that I really would like to have a label that is stand out, especially being a beginner – a new kid on the block.

The only way to get attention is to grab it with a really cool label. While I’m sitting talking to you, I’m looking at my first painting label, which was a bright blue background with a lady wearing a pinot noir coloured dress. That was done by a fabulous woman called Hannetjie de Clercq.

I was extremely blessed to have her collaborate with me. We swap paintings for wine. So, when she has her art exhibitions, the wine with her labels is there. We’ve done an incredible 21 years now that we’ve collaborated and I’m extremely blessed to have them.

On her microwinery:

When I come back from overseas, I was hell-bent on creating my own Garagista-style wines. When I was on my travels in the States – particularly Oregon and Sonoma County – everybody who was a winemaker also had their little zinfandel bubbling in the garage. I was intrigued by this. Going to France, I saw it there as well. I figured, ‘well, you know what? I really want to do something like that in South Africa’.

I doubt that I’m the first person that ever did that. I’m sure there are many people in South Africa and the Western Cape that had their little garage kitchen wines growing. I think where I was really lucky, was that back in the day, it wasn’t quite a popular thing. It hadn’t been made popular. I was very fortunate to have things like Top Billing and Carte Blanche intrigued by my little operation. I managed to get onto all of these platforms and so that’s how it all started, really.

On Pinot Noir:

I think if you have a kind of spiritual connection with Pinot [Noir] – without sounding too ‘woohoo’ about it – but it really is a wine that makes you feel, it really has a kind of thing that resonates deep within. I don’t think any other wine other than Pinot does that – for me anyways. 

That grape, that variety – the great Pinot Noir – is probably one of the most honest grapes. When I work with it, it keeps me extremely honest. It’s very difficult to kind of see how to make it, but I think if you can keep Pinot honest, it will shine.

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