Uitkyk’s Estelle Lourens merely ‘fine-tunes’ nature’s results

Date posted:
September 6, 2011

Since being appointed winemaker of Uitkyk in October 2000, Estelle Lourens (née Swart) says she has gained tremendously in her understanding of what is needed to make great wines at Uitkyk near Stellenbosch.


Estelle began her career studying biophysics in preparation for cancer research, but she soon realised she didn’t want to spend her whole life in a laboratory, preferring to spend more time outdoors. Winemaking seemed the ideal choice, combining the outdoors, the laboratory and the cellar. Today she holds a degree in viniculture and viticulture from the University of Stellenbosch where she excelled, receiving the award for the best student in oenology and viticulture in her final year.


After exploring the wine regions of Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and America, Estelle returned to South Africa in 1997. Her first appointment was as assistant-winemaker at Neethlingshof. The next year she moved to Stellenzicht, where she worked for three years.


A few years after accepting her present position at Uitkyk, Estelle married Ian Lourens. They have two children, Arno and Janco. She enjoys hiking and loves the outdoors to the extent where she seldom ventures into the city! Her love for nature is very apparent in Uitkyk’s sustainability initiatives which have led to the estate being awarded championship status with the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI).


Sauvignon blanc is Estelle’s favourite white varietal to work with because of the challenges it offers. Among the reds, cabernet sauvignon is her favourite “because of its subtlety and because it expresses Uitkyk’s terroir the best”. With access to 12 cultivars planted on the estate, Estelle’s dream of “creating a wine that will have everyone talking” might soon find fulfilment.


Estelle is also involved in the making of Uitkyk’s 10-year-old Grand Reserve estate brandy by creating the base wine made from chenin blanc and cabernet sauvignon. This brandy has over the years won numerous awards because of its exceptional taste profile. Described by the winemaker as finessed in style with a classical profile, “the emphasis is on nuance and subtlety with layers of fruit, tempered by notes of vanilla and clove”.


Under Estelle’s leadership, Uitkyk’s wines have won numerous awards, among the latest a trio of gold and silver medals  at the 2010 Veritas Awards which went to both the 2009 and 2010 vintages of the Sauvignon Blanc, as well as to the venerable but still very vibrant 2001 Carlonet, a classic South African cabernet sauvignon.


None of the many accolades has changed Estelle one bit. “I don’t mark my achievements in terms of awards, but rather in making wine that everyone enjoys drinking,” she says.


And Estelle’s winemaking philosophy? “I let nature do what it does best and then try to fine-tune the result!”



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