Nico van der Merwe Wines
We are a family owned and operated boutique winery crafting quality wines
in Stellenbosch, the heart of the Cape Winelands, since 1999.
The Art of Listening
The perpetual lifecycle of the vine
Vines ripen their grapes on an ever-changing schedule. Each day of every year is different. The wind never blows the same way twice. The patterns of rain and temperature are ephemeral and constantly variable. Every vine must adapt to what it is given.
Nico has spent his entire career observing and interpreting these signals of growth and development. He listens and a plan develops. A harvest date is never determined until the day the message is clear.
The degree of ripeness is key to the wine that can be made. The grape ripens further every day until an unseen and short-lived peak is reached. There is no second chance or margin for error, and that decision to harvest will influence every step of the process in the cellar thereafter.
Nico tells his story
“The vines tell me when the grapes are ready. You just need to know how to listen to the signals. I visit the vineyards I work with many times in the weeks before picking day. And one day, you just know: It’s today… or tomorrow. Don’t waste a moment.”
“For 27 years I was at a winery where the grapes seldom matched up to the owner’s ambition. I had to go out among the specialist growers and find my way to the best grapes. It’s the trial and error way. But little by little you learn. If you are listening, the answers come to you.
And the best I found was never enough. Because the greatest wines have more than one set of flavours. I had to search high and low for contrasting flavours, the ones that lift each other to a new level.”
From vineyard to cellar
“The plan for every product starts in the vineyard. Are these grapes going to give us a wine that rewards long maturation? Or a wine that suits tonight’s plate of food? After that it’s a matter of fermentation and flavour extraction.
From there, the reds go into barrel as soon as possible. They’ll stay there for 18 to 20 months. The moment I see they are ready, they go into bottle. And that’s where they’ll stay for another 18 months. It’s important to me that they are fully developed when they are released, but still young and fresh.”
How it all started
Son of a wheatfarming family, Nico gravitated to winemaking during his years at Elsenburg Agricultural College. After completion he headed for Germany, to attend the countries oldest wine school LVWO Weinsberg. It was also during this time Nico would meet his future wife Petra, who was practising as a medical doctor in a neighbouring town.
Returning to South Africa after graduating, he became South Africa’s first “flying winemaker”, spending half of every year running a cellar in Stellenbosch and the other half operating a winery in the Languedoc in France.
During the family’s time spent in France they not only discovered a new culture and way of living, but Nico’s dream of creating his own wines also started to manifest itself. This dream finally came to fruition with the maiden vintage of Mas Nicolas in 1999.
Like the perpetual lifecycle of the vine some things have changed since then, but Nico’s focus on creating quality wines using traditional and hands-on methods that result in a reflection of the character and terroir of the Cape remains unwavering.
You can find our wines at selected agents below
House of Wines
Birr und Partner
Wine at Heart
Reach out to us
Get in touch with us if you have any queries and we will get back to you as soon as possible.