« The wine industry in Namibia is in its infant stage »
WINE EXPLORERS : What is your background? Any link with wine?
MICHAEL WEDER : My background is in labour law and not in wine making. I was for years a member of a wine club, as I enjoy drinking wine, and I attended two short wine making courses for "garagist" at the University Of Stellenbosch (South Africa).
WE : How did you get this crazy idea to make wine in Namibia ?
MW : We bought the Kristall Kellerei in March 2008 as Katrin (my wife) and I had decided to own a business where we can work together. We also decided that this business had to be in Omaruru, but why - this I cannot tell you. It was a great challenge for both of us and we enjoyed it since the beginning.
WE : What characterise the Kristall Kellerei winery ?
MW : Altitude is 1220m above to see level which give to the Estate some freshness during the night. Soils are sandy with a bit of clay, sot hey are not too fertile which is good as the vines have too fight in order to find nutrients. We have about 2,8 hectares currently under production (but will be increased to 6ha during the next two years). Colombard is the main white grape planted (with a smattering of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc) and Tinta Barocca for reds (with a bite of Ruby Cabernet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinotage). Weather is a challenge in the Omaruru region : mostly hot and dry, with summer rainfall of about 280mm. So we have to be carreful with rote when harvesting.
WE : Some details on your cuvées ?
MW : Our two wines are blends and dry (but not bone dry). We use stainless steel tanks and pure (French) yeast for fermentation.
WE : What is your market strategy in terms of sales and marketing ?
MW : Currently we produce too little wine to think of exports (around 4,500 bottles a year). This will change within the next twelve years are we are thinking on a long term evolution. Currently, most of our sales take place across the counter, and some up-market lodges and hotels in Namibia also receive small quantities of our wines for their wine lists.
WE : You are also very well know for your spirits. Why making spirits ?
MW : We have obtained a good reputation for our spirits for which we have received international recognition in the last years. When we purchased Kristall Kellerei distillation was already part of the set-up and we decided to contunie, once again for the challenge and the fun it represented. It is easier to produce than wine are you are less dependent of weather and fruit/plantes deseases and it is a fantastic complement for the all Kristall Kellerei range.
WE : A few words one your spirits range ?
MW : We currently distil grapes (Nappa), prickly pears (Matisa), corky monkey-orange (Lumela) and pommegranate (Granate).
WE : How do you see the Nabian wine industry nowadays?
MW : The wine "industry" in Namibia is in its infant stage and it is my hope that this will grow. The first wines were made by catholic brothers in the vicinity of Windhoek - about 1894 - but this was discontinued during 1978 when the last cellar master passed away. The second attempt at wine making and distilling is here at Kristall Kellerei when the first vines (Colombard) were planted in 1990 by Helmuth Kluge, the previous owner. There are two other vineyards, both of whom are also managed by amateur winemakers. On the one hand this is a severe handicap as necessary knowledge and skills are lacking; on the other hand, this leaves a lot of room for innovation.
WE : What are your plans for the future at the winery ?
MW : We are expanding the acreage with Colombard being the main variety, although we are also toying with the idea to plant not so well known varieties…surprise !