Richard Kershaw MW | A Lifelong Learner
Born and raised in the UK, Richard enjoyed a successful career as a chef before finding wine. After travelling extensively, he arrived in South Africa in 1999. Now a Master of Wine, Richard is pursuing his dream of making his own wine in the cool climate of Elgin in the Western Cape.
Established in 2012, Richard Kershaw Wines create clonally selected, site-specific, cool climate wines. each wine is made from 3-4 small parcels on terroir-specific plots with particular soil types. They are all handpicked into small lugs and vinified in Elgin, travelling no more than 10-15 minutes between vineyard and cellar, and avoiding unnecessary crushing and premature juice oxidation. In the cellar, they are handled minimally using a gravity-fed system that avoids pumping and no products are added to the wine.
Richard Kershaw experienced his first harvest in California in 1995. Soon thereafter, he travelled extensively through many wine regions worldwide with a round-the-world ticket, learning more about wine in each region, before eventually settling in South Africa in 1999.
Richard wanted to write about viticulture in the country. He found that in terms of viticulture, South African growers were very knowledgeable, but that winemaking still had room to improve. In the past 15 years, South African winemaking has come of age and Richard believes that the country has amazing potential.
Richard Kershaw Wines has three full-time employees at the winery, in addition to consultants and seasonal workers. His wife and daughter also help out with marketing. Being a “boutique” winery, Richard does not wish to expand much, but rather concentrate on making great wines in small batches. He lets his wines ferment naturally, without the help of enzymes or added yeasts. When the wine is in barrels, Richard and his colleagues taste it every six weeks to monitor the progress. He uses délestage to give the wine oxygen, which helps with the fermentation process. In terms of maturation techniques, Richard has come up with a precise algorithm where he matches the clone of the Chardonnay, Pinot and Syrah to the soil type. This then informs the oak program the wine will go through. Clones are made by taking a cutting or bud from a ‘mother vine’ and grafting it onto a specific rootstock. The newly planted or grafted vine is called a clone of the mother vine and is an exact replica, not a cross or hybrid.
Richard loves making wine. He thinks about it as a multifaceted discipline. Chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, and physics all play a part in winemaking. He also loves the social aspect of wine. It is never boring! What he enjoys most about winemaking is being able to apply his mind to lots of different disciplines, and always evolving. Richard is a lifelong learner. “Yesterday’s winemaking is today’s tradition, and tomorrow’s winemaking is today’s innovation.” Richard Kershaw is always up for a challenge! As a Master of Wine, he consults and visits wineries around the world to keep learning about new challenges and techniques. Lastly, Richard Kershaw loves the countryside, and wouldn’t trade his beautiful vineyard landscapes for anything!
When he’s not tasting his own wines, Richard enjoys Côte-Rotie wines, Côtes du Rhône, or Rioja. In his quest to always keep learning, he tries to drink 80% wines from overseas and 20% local wines. At the time of this article, he was opening his Smuggler’s Boot Sauvignon Blanc (Lot 3063) to have with tuna for dinner.
The Syrah grapes come from different plots, with different soil types and climates. The plots themselves are planted with several clones. All the vineyards and clones are harvested separately. Every six weeks, each separate batch is tasted and assessed for about 18 months. The Deconstructed Syrah series are an amalgam of these batches – the names of these come from geographical features near the vineyards (Lake District), combined with the clone names (SH9c).