- South Africa
- 4 wines
- 4 styles
He left his high-flying job making SA's favourite wines to pursue the next best underground find
- Francois has worked for some of the world’s most iconic brands, including Dry Creek Vineyard in Sonoma, Jackson Estate in Marlborough, and Waterford Estate back home in Stellenbosch.
- His real passion however, is seeking out under the radar parcels to craft boutique wines - so in 2014 he ditched the high-flying day job to turn his hand to making the next great underground wine.
- Francois now focuses exclusively on creating high quality, single-vineyard wines from small-scale sites hidden away all over the Western Cape. He built long lasting relationships with the growers and made wines true to their site of origin, with as little human jiggery-pokery as possible.
Francois Haasbroek's Story
Tell us a bit about your background...
I was born and bred Western Cape kid, also happen to be 8th generation South African. Growing up I fell in love with science, probably due to my aversion to suit and tie careers; in my dream world I wanted to become a National Geographic photographer or marine biologist. My parents made it clear there is no trust-fund awaiting us, so the photography idea got snubbed to just a hobby and my affliction to getting seasick in 5 minutes or less made the marine biology thing a non-starter.
Being surrounded with vineyards growing up in Stellenbosch sowed the seed that this could be something cool to pursue. I did a few cellar rat stints to get a feel for what wine making entails as a potential career, and subsequently decided to give this a bash. I completed my bachelors degree in viticulture and oenology at Stellenbosch University in 2002. During this period I did my first proper harvest work at Neil Ellis, who I to this day rate as one of the best winemakers in SA and remain a mentor. After a short stay at Delheim as an assistant winemaker the wonderlust kicked in and I headed off to California for a harvest at DryCreek Vineyard in Sonoma, post this I did a session in Marlborough under a dodgy character called Mike Patterson.... seriously unlikeable guy and poor winemaker (ps: love you Mike!) After NZ, the idea was to do a quick turn in Europe and then head back to NZ... then fate played a hand. A few weeks after returning I got the opportunity to join Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch and became their winemaker in 2004. This was my focus for the next 9 years which was a very dynamic and exciting time for the brand on several levels. The idea of wanting to create something completely of my own was however always lingering. Unfortunately it was not a feasible option to put this into action while being at Waterford and in 2012 I decided to bid them fair-well and set out on my own.
Blackwater wine was born; making small artisan lots of wine from what I call "bizarre, fascinating and beguiling sites with as minimum intervention as possible"... and that has been my pursuit the last 9 years. In between there has been a few consulting roles both on business restructuring, brand development and winemaking for several other wineries in the Western Cape.
What is it about your job that you love?
Working in a creative space + science + making people happy + traveling and meeting awesome people + work in jeans and T-shirts on a formal day = whats not to love
What makes your wines special?
Honesty and purity without pursuing overblown and overworked wines; I want to people to fall in love with the experience of drinking a wine, not just a glass wine for the sake of a glass of wine
Which varietal / style are you most passionate about and why?
Unfair question; I literally drink anything from anywhere if its true to its source or style. Knowing how difficult it is to combine elegance and complexity I am partial to classic wine regions like Mosel, Northern Rhone, Burgundy, Alsace, most of Italy and any other region where rocky soils are the cornerstone of what defines the regions wines.
Most memorable moment making wine?
Filling the last barrel of my first solo vintage.... I couldn't manage to borrow a basket press anywhere and funds were skint to say the least. So the red grape skins were literally pressed out by hand... no joke. Needless to say halfway through this ordeal my sense of humor and hope were at an epic low, so when I managed to get things wrapped up it was like the weight of the world had lifted off my shoulders.