In her heart, Lizelle Gerber, Nederburg’s new cellar-master, admits being a bit of an artist – loyal and determined, if not impatient at times, but always a winemaker. “Every vintage is different, which is why the job is never boring or uninteresting,” she says. “Every year brings the opportunity to create a new artwork with its own personality and charm.”
Lizelle obtained her degree in winemaking at the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute of Stellenbosch, following a one-year stint with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Here she learned perseverance, persistence and precision, she says, elements that are serving her well in her current vocation.
She started her winemaking career in 1996 at Zevenwacht, but it was her tenure at Avontuur in the early 2000s that cemented her love for the vine.
In-between her time at these two estates, Lizelle spent a harvest season in the Alsace region of France where she gained important early exposure to the international wine industry. She was winemaker at DGB’s Bellingham from 2004 after which she joined Boschendal in August 2006, where she worked for over a decade as its dedicated Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) and white-wine maker.
In her new role, Lizelle oversees the production of Nederburg’s extensively awarded wine portfolio and serves as mentor to young winemaking protégé for Pongrácz, Andiswa Mapheleba, to fast-track her development as a specialist MCC winemaker.
Reflecting on her own personal development, Lizelle reckons a winemaker should be adaptable and innovative. “Changing trends and technologies keep us on our toes!” In winemaking, respect is important to her as it is across all aspects of her life. “This extends to the winemaking process and ingredients.” To her, every harvest has its challenges, which makes it an advantage to be able to receive wines from different areas and ensure consistency. Plus, the industry is at an exciting point, she says.
“The industry can be proud, especially when it comes to winemaking practices. Our quality equates with the best in the world. The diversity of origin gives us a unique advantage. I also believe that cool climate wines prepared in diverse, elegant styles have placed the industry on a higher level internationally.”
“For me, winemaking is about making the best wine in the appropriate style. To identify components that work well together is a challenge and very insightful. It’s great to be able to grow with your wine and to experience the dynamic of this living product. Eventually we all represent South Africa on the international wine platform. It is every winemaker’s pursuit to
make excellent wine.
“And we all have a unique style and personality – just like a painting.” Lizelle lives in Wellington with her partner and menagerie of animals including four dogs, two cats, two parrots and a number of Koi fish.