Hailing from Klerksdorp in South Africa’s North West Province, thirty-three-year-old Zinaschke Steyn is a young wine-maker not to be taken lightly. She moved to Worcester after matriculating in 2005, where she worked as a proof-reader at Pioneer Printers while exploring the Cape Winelands during her free time. The initial idea was for her to obtain a BSc degree in Chemical Engineering at Stellenbosch University with the thought of becoming a brandy distiller, but during her first two years in the Cape it became evident that wine-making is where her heart is.
“Wine-making seemed a lot more fun than brandy – I like to get my hands dirty and to be physically involved in the process from start to finish. It is a challenging environment that is never the same, each year you get one chance to make a success of the vintage, and you never know what Mother Nature has up her sleeve! Also, it would make for a good story – a Valie that grew up on brandy and beer, now making wine. In 2007 I went to see Oom Willie at Elsenburg, and the rest is history,” she explains.
Zinaschke completed her B Agric degree in wine-making and viticulture at Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute in Stellenbosch in 2010, after which she gained first-hand experience in wine-making at Overhex Private Cellar, KWV and GlenWood Vineyards.
Appointed as Nederburg’s assistant red-wine maker in late 2018, she now works under the leadership of talented red wine-maker Samuel Viljoen.
“Nederburg is a wonderful playground to experiment with different methods and techniques, but I feel that it is important to still execute the basics correctly. Keep it simple and stay true to your style. Always trust your gut, and your palate,” she states.
“I have learnt a lot during my career to date, and the most important thing is that you should be happy in your work. I want to learn and develop my skills as wine-maker as much as possible, so that I too may one day be in the position to give back to those working in my team. And along the way, to make some awesome wines with Samuel!”
What makes her curious, driving her to keep on discovering and bettering her best efforts? “The fact that the wine industry is so diverse and ever-changing,” she says.
“You don’t necessarily have to conform and do what everyone else is doing, but it is important to keep up to date with the changes or new technology within the industry. I love challenging myself, to be more creative and to remind myself that there is always room for improvement.”
Her greatest inspiration is her mother. “She has taught me that I can literally do anything I set my mind to and that I should never allow my circumstances to break my spirit. And the most important – to keep my head low and keep going; hard work is always rewarded.”
When it comes to wine, what captivates Zinaschke is the fact that the same cultivar could be expressed in such different ways. “Wine is all about perception. People perceive things differently. Also, we are working with a product of nature which can be totally unpredictable. You need to be able to think on your feet and sometimes roll with the punches to be rewarded with something spectacular.”
Zinaschke is married and lives in Franschhoek.