Grande Provence winemaker, Thys Smit, has been rewarded for his hard work in the cellar and the vineyards with a nomination as a finalist of the 19th Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year Awards.
Thys took on the leading role as winemaker and viticulturist at this Franschhoek heritage wine estate in 2018 after joining the Grande Provence team in 2015 as assistant winemaker. He earned his Young Winemaker of the Year nomination for two wines, Grande Provence Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, both from the 2018 vintage. The competition focuses on the white wine category this year.
The Grande Provence Chardonnay 2018 was selected for the competition for its elegance, balance and complexity. Half the wine was fermented with wild yeasts and the remaining 50% was inoculated with three different yeast strains to add to the complexity.
“The 2018 vintage for Franschhoek Chardonnay was incredibly difficult. One of our vineyard sites had to endure golf ball sized hail during harvest which was nature’s way of telling us it’s time to pick the grapes,” says Thys, who enjoys this wine most with pasta and prawns drizzled in lemon and garlic butter.
The Grande Provence Chenin Blanc 2018 has a deep intensity and concentration of flavours with layers of fruit, minerality and hints of salinity.“This is a complex Chenin Blanc that really surprises you at every encounter,” says Thys, who considers this variety his absolute favourite.
The wine owes its complexity to four diverse components: “The first, a 38 year old vineyard block in Franschhoek, lends fruit and minerality, while the second, a young block, adds passion fruit and tropical flavours. Very small components of Viognier to impart a hint of floral and spice, and Verdelho for its yellow and orange fruit concentration, round off this Chenin Blanc beautifully,” explains Thys.
Before joining Grande Provence, Thys gained winemaking experience working three vintages at Lourensford Estate, and enrolled in a training program in the USA where he worked at Roth Estate focusing on Chardonnay and Bordeaux-style blends.
The 2019 Young Winemaker of the Year will be announced at a gala event in Franschhoek on Saturday, 23 November.