Luddite Wines, Botrivier, Western Cape
Some people describe Luddite Shiraz as Niels Verburg contained in a glass; Niels is six foot four and when he smiles appears to be beaming an embrace in your direction.
As a young winemaker traveling the world Niels confirmed his love for Shiraz when working a harvest in Australia but it was a winery in Chile that inspired his wine-making method, ‘It was as if I’d gone back 20 years, it was ramshackle, chaotic but they had great fruit and passion and I’d never seen that quality of wine.’
‘The nitty gritty of good winemaking is to have good grapes, good yeast and good barrels,’ says Niels, ‘Being hi-tech and cutting edge isn’t important to me. When you go into a winery and see the centrifuges and reverse osmosis, it’s like going into the kitchen of a top restaurant and seeing a microwave, you think “Hey, that’s not right”.’
Luddite Shiraz 2000 was the Luddite’s first vintage. ‘There’s been an improvement every year,’ says Niels. ‘The ultimate goal would be a perfect wine but of course that doesn’t exist.’
Because Chenin Blanc is a grape close to the Luddites’ heart they couldn’t resist making their own and Luddite Chenin 2012 is the first vintage. Luddite Shiraz was also joined by the Saboteur, a red blend.
Niels Verburg and his wife Penny are unabashed luddites who apply a technology-resistant philosophy to their methods, ‘farming conscientiously with minimum mechanization’ and aiming to make a wine that’s ‘as natural as possible, with little or no intervention’. ‘It’s about knowing that when you buy a bottle of Luddite, what’s inside is genuine and made with integrity,’ says Niels.
Niels met Penny at Elsenburg, the Cape Institute for Agricultural Training, where he was making his first bottle of Shiraz and she was studying animal husbandry. They have been together ever since, traveling from France to New Zealand as Niels honed his wine making skills and raising three children: Daisy, Alice and Kim.
Niels and Penny are now living their dream of making wine on their own family-run farm: Luddite. While Niels fine-tunes his Shiraz, Penny takes care of the vineyards (and the vegetable patch), bottles her own olive oil and rears happy pigs for bacon, pork sausage and chourizo.