“Making wine from old vines is like having a conversation with your grandmother. You keep quiet and listen.” – Johan Kruger.
Johan Kruger’s winemaking journey started in earnest when he met his Belgian wife, Sofie, in 2015. Though one might argue that Johan was born to it, having grown up on the serendipitously named farm, Sterhuis, in the Bottelary Hills of Stellenbosch.
He learned the art of winemaking from the team at Jordan Winery during a four-year internship that turned into a full-time job at the turn of the century (2000 just doesn’t hold the same weight). From there, he went on to become the winemaker at Sterhuis, and officially launched Kruger Family Wines in 2015, going out on his own.
In 2005, Johan was named the Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year for his Sterhuis Barrel Selection Chardonnay 2004, merely a precursor to what was to become a lifelong obsession with Chardonnay.
He says he developed a passion for Burgundy, having spent some time exploring the area with Sjaak Nelson on a Domaine just outside Beaune in 2002, when the winemaker, after lunch, took out his violin and walked out into the vineyards playing to the vines. Now THAT was real passion.
When I ask him what his equivalent of serenading the vines is today, he says it’s walking with his family through them, their three young boys running ahead. And while this might sound like a bit of a cliché, I don’t think it is, given their story.