She is not your typical wine maker. She is South Africa’s first sparkling wine specialist.
Melanie van der Merwe grew up on the farm Uitkyk in De Doorns, Western Cape, South Africa where her parents Albertus Kriel and her late mom Maria Kriel farmed with export grapes. Here she learned not only to love the nature but she learned how to appreciate wine. “Every Sunday my brothers and I got a bit of “Sweet wine” in our own small glasses. My Mom and Dad were in the grape industry and they just realized that they need to teach their children to appreciate wine and to know it. She went to school in the Hex valley High School where she matriculated. She went to Stellenbosch University where she studied BsC agriculture with Viticulture and Oenology, at that stage one of only a few girls to study winemaking in those years. Of nine students she was the only girl in class.
She started her career at Distillers Corporation in 1994. Did wine research for 10 months and was then employed as winemaker in 1995 by the same company. In 2001 she was appointed as Cellar Manager (Chef du Cave) / Sparkling Winemaker for Distell. She worked for a few vintages in Champagne, France, where Michel Pansu (Chef du Cave of Louis Roederer Champagne), Thierry Gasco ( Chef du Cave of Pommery Champagne) and George Blanc ( Chef du Cave of Moet & Chandon Champagne) taught her the finer skills of making Champagne. “I will always remember these vintages as some of the most special in my life”
After making Sparkling wine and specifically the Cap Classique method for 11 years at Distell, which is the biggest producer of sparkling wine in South Africa, she realized “This is my passion in life and to discontinue making Cap Classique sparkling wine would be like to never fulfill my dream”.
After her resignation she continued to make Cap Classique sparkling wine, but obviously as it is her own business, in much smaller quantities. During her career she won numerous local awards and was internationally acclaimed for the wines she made. She was also nominated as “one of SA’s leading wine makers”. In 2006 she won the Amorim cork Wine magazine,s Cap Classique challenge with one of the Cap Classique sparkling wines she made.
She believes that it is not possible to replicate classical mehode champenoise wines
in South Africa, given the distinct differences in terroir and climate. The majority
of the Chardonnay and Pinot noir grapes grown for making her own wine – Tanzanite
Grapes are harvested in whole bunches by hand at 19-
As a good Cap Classique sparkling wine is rated on the mouth feel this is an extremely
important part for the Tanzanite style. The wines are tasted every six months to
determine the time the specific vintage must spend on the lees. None less than twenty
four months. Ageing on the lees is one of the crucial parts in making a good Cap
Classique. The wine must reach its optimum maturity. After the process of riddling
and degorgement the sugar will be adjusted according to the wine’s taste.
She only makes brut style method Cap Classique wines:
A Non Vintage Brut and a Brut Rose under the "Tanzanite" Label.
The name Tanzanite:
This is the December birthstone which happens to be Melanie’s birth month. The wine was inspired by the stone Tanzanite – all the qualities wanted in the wine was in the stone itself -