Meet winemaker Eugene van Zyl of Leopard’s Leap
Eugene was born in Grahamstown in 1949, one of three brothers all connected to the agricultural industry. “Wine was very much a part of our lifestyle.” He started off by studying deciduous-fruit technology at Stellenbosch, where, during his second year he was exposed to the science of viticulture and oenology. “It grabbed my whole being, hence the change of study course to the latter.” His first job was as assistant researcher at Nietvoorbij (Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology) then as a lecturer and, later, head of the cellar technology course at Elsenburg. Following some years as a consultant for various wine farms, he moved to Leopard’s Leap. He and his wife Marisca live in Stellenbosch where she has just been appointed wine marketer at a boutique winery. Eugene says he loves to cook, “Drawing inspiration from travels as well as our amazing chef Pieter de Jager at Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards.” Hobbies include motorcycling and scuba diving so holidays are, “For the motorcycle, wherever the dust road leads us; as for the rest, we seek out far-off places, secluded, mostly unique diving spots.”
A“With the most amazing terroir variations including slopes, altitudes, ocean influences and interesting soil types, we are able to produce some of the best wines in the world
t Leopard’s Leap in Franschhoek, wine is made for drinking, for quaffing liberally, and for imbibing with food, an ancient partnership. They have deftly managed to pull off making wine drinking not a trip to the lofty halls of preciousness, but an adjunct to daily life. One will not hear much swilling and sniffing of the glass in their tasting room, only many sighs of contentment as one takes it all in in relaxed, elegantly modern surroundings.
They know that wine is one of life’s great pleasures but it does not have to be a mystery. The grapes for these excellently priced wines are sourced all over the Western Cape and the result is a collection of eminently drinkable wines that will not break the bank. Winemaker Eugene van Zyl has been there since 2002, making sure that quality is achieved vintage after vintage. He says, “With the most amazing terroir variations including slopes, altitudes, ocean influences and interesting soil types, we are able to produce some of the best wines in the world.” He travels extensively, saying, “It is important to follow the routes of winemaking in Europe, and their exposure to New World winemaking countries.” The owners of the setup, Hein Koegelenberg and his wife Hannelie, must be chuffed that it is all coming together so wonderfully. There are regular hands-on cooking classes in which enthusiastic foodies can enrol, always with a glass of wine in hand of course, and support for the Cape Leopard Trust is integral to everything that happens at Leopard’s Leap.
Merlot 2016 Deep dark red fruits like mulberries and plums, even a grape or two lingering, make this a cracker Merlot. R52 Roast sirloin and potatoes a match made in heaven
Shiraz 2015 Medium bodied, deliciously spicy with just the right amount of tannins and wood to support all that fruit. R52 At its best at a braai with grilled meats
Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2017 Delightfully pink with aromas of citrus on the nose and in the mouth, packed with the freshness of summer. R46 Magnificent with roast duck or sushi