With his feet firmly planted on South African soils our head winemaker, Hendrik Snyman, has travelled around the globe to learn from some of the world’s top winemakers. Today, he blends his knowledge with the finest local vineyards and grapes to create wines for Barnardt Boyes that truly represent the best of South African winemaking. We sat down with Hendrik to talk about his personal journey and global experiences.
What first attracted you to winemaking?
I grew up on a farm, so I have always had a love and deep appreciation for the land. There was a need, however, to do something creative with my life. After considering architecture I came to the realisation that winemaking would allow me to be creative, but to still operate in the world I grew up in.
What was your first job in the industry? What path has your career taken since?
I was a cellar intern at Windmeul near Paarl (Western Cape) where I learned many of the essential basics. It didn’t take me long before I cultivated a bucket list of everywhere I wanted to go to learn the craft. So I ended up in Napa at Trinchero Family Estate (the second-largest family-owned winery in the world) to learn how to make reds, in New Zealand at Jackson Estate to learn to make their renowned white wines and, a place that is very special to me, I was lucky enough to be the assistant winemaker at Champagne Guy Charbaut in Champagne, France. These experiences have shaped one of my winemaking passions: To embrace and learn from the world’s winemakers and apply those insights to South African fruit.
Of all the places you have been to make wine, which has been the most interesting?
Definitely Champagne, because the winemaking traditions were so interesting. Also, it really felt like you had to earn your spot in the cellar. It’s easy to slot into a well-functioning operation in the U.S.A or New Zealand, and probably in South Africa, but the language and cultural barriers in France really push you to explore your limits. And once you have broken through, there are few things as rewarding in my profession.
What’s the best part of your job?
That I can take my skills anywhere in the world. There are so many new, interesting places now where I can learn new things.
Where do you think the most exciting wine trends and wines are happening?
I am intrigued by English and Hungarian sparkling and would love to take some time to explore there. And, of course, I think the hidden gem is Tasmanian sparkling, which is amazing! Trend-wise, I like the emergence of refrigerated light reds. I also like the concept of wines that are low in sulphur and alcohol.
As a dad, how do you strike the right balance between your family and career life?
There’s a lot of travel in my work, so I do find that my three year old is starting to ask some questions, but overall I find that it is possible to balance family and work life. It just comes down to being as organised as possible so that you can maintain the balance.
What do you do for fun in your downtime?
Downtime is mostly me being a dad to my daughter, but if the opportunity is there I love to go fishing. On the rare occasion that my wife and I get to leave the house, we really enjoy going on wine and food adventures all over the Cape.
Can you encapsulate your winemaking style in a few words?
I believe in borderless creativity. Never get stuck within your limits, always look for inspiration around the world and apply those lessons at home.
What is currently your favourite wine at Barnardt Boyes?
The Carrol Boyes Collection Brut, because the complexity that we managed to achieve with it really stands out for me. I am very proud of it.
On the business side of wine, which international market excites you the most?
Definitely China. The first time I visited there was in 2013 when the wine market was still mostly focussed on the very rich and knowledge about wine was few and far between. Now, five years later, the growth in understanding around wine has increased beyond belief. It really feels like I have been part of that evolution, and seeing the progression is incredibly satisfying.
What has been the highlight of working at Barnardt Boyes?
I have immensely enjoyed getting more exposure on the business side of wine, which is a critical skill with the current oversaturation in most of the world’s market. Being the best winemaker in today’s terms is not just about the wine, but also about your ability to sell it into retailers and restaurants and directly to consumers.
You got married in 2013. When your 10-year wedding anniversary comes around in 2023 and we could offer you any bottle of wine in the world, what would you get?
I think it will have to be something from Champagne, maybe a Champagne Salon or something from Jacques Selosse…
Lastly, do you have a quote that you live by?
Don’t ever limit yourself when it comes to your dreams, but only pursue those that you can almost touch, taste and feel inside you.