The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2010

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Page 59 of 96

VINTNERS A Star in Stellenbosch I t doesn’t get much more American than Independence, Missouri, the town where Jose Condé grew up. But the graphic designer wound up on the opposite side of the planet from the Show Me State when he moved to South Africa in 1997. The reason? “A woman,” admits Condé, who changed careers as well as countries while following his muse—now his wife—Marie. “I originally planned to open a design firm in Cape Town,” says the ex- Missourian, “but I never got around to that.” Instead, he began to get interested in making wine—easy enough, since Marie’s family owned a vineyard estate called Oude Nektar in Stellenbosch. Although the grapes were (and still are) sold to respected producer Neil Ellis, a good acquaintance, Condé began to get the bug to make his own wines, releas- ing the first vintage of Stark-Condé in 1998. (Stark was Marie’s grandmother’s maiden name.) African accent, something of Missouri’s pragmatic attitude still exists in Condé’s hands-on attention to detail—meticulous grape sorting, open-tank fermentation, round-the-clock hand punch-downs—and in his insistence that the Stark-Condé wines compete not just on the local South African scene but on the world stage. The winery makes around 6,000 cases per year, concentrating on Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, two varietals that do particularly well in the Jonkershoek Valley, the small district of Stellenbosch where their wine farm is located. No Pinotage? “I play around with a small amount of Pinotage,” shrugs Condé, admitting nonetheless that he prefers French varieties to South Africa’s quirky signature grape. The autodidact winemaker’s willing- JOSE cONDÉ BRINGS “SHOW ME” TO SOUTH AFRICA In spite of his slowly encroaching South ness to continue learning has helped him achieve critical success. “When I first made Syrah, I released it as Shiraz,” says Condé, “but people expect a big, jammy, Australian wine when they hear ‘Shiraz.’” So Condé opted to use the French spelling to better describe the Rhône-like restraint and sophistication of the Stark-Condé versions. Like the beautifully structured Cabernet, the Syrah is made in two ranges: the mainstay Stellenbosch tier and the Three Pines tier, made from grapes grown on high-elevation slopes. In spite of rave reviews that put him in the top echelon of South African vintners, Condé still seems like a kid in a candy store: “Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one having so much fun.” : Wines for the Human Species Condé, along with surfer-vintner Tyrrel Myburgh and Tyrrel’s brother Philip, teamed up to create a value-driven brand called MAN Vintners, using the initials of their wives’ names—Marie, Anette and Nicky—as a moniker that reflects the human impulse to consume good wine at a fair price. Colorful South African vintner Charles Back (of Goats do Roam fame) came on board later as a partner, bringing added cachet. The brand has grown enormously over the past few years. The under-$12 screwcap-topped offerings include juicy Chenin Blanc, crisp Chardonnay, tangy Sauvignon Blanc, feisty Cabernet Sauvignon and toasty Shiraz. And, yes, there’s even a charming Pinotage. Stark-Condé and MAN Vintners wines are imported by Vineyard Brands. july 2010 / the tasting panel / 59 PHOTOS COURTESY OF STARK-CONDÉ

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