Kyle Oosterberg, whose official title is Global Director & South African Winemaker, describes himself as a “Jack of all trades”. Based in Hong Kong, he is part of the small, young, and very dynamic team at globally focussed new-wave négotiant The Flying Winemaker.
It clearly makes for an interesting vision when you can understand a business from all sides. He is not one to drive a hard sales bargain, for example. He believes wine is about self-discovery and personal preferences. Let the wine do the talking! To try The Flying Winemaker Cabernet Sauvignon from the Margaret River, he explains, is to go on a journey to Margaret River.
Price is an important part of the equation but not the most important part, says Kyle. Having a booth at international wine fairs is important, as is working in markets close to you so that you can visit often – and that presence is critical. Yet, the team doesn’t make wine for markets – they make the best expression of a grape from a place that they can. From a consumer-friendly, marketing standpoint, they have plans to organise their wines into Destination and Exploration Series; Icon (small batches); and Lifestyle (lunchtime rouge!) categories. The vision is ultimately to become a household name.
Kyle came to wine almost by accident, taking a casual summer job in wine retail at the age of 16. One day he was asked to help out in the Tasting Room. Frustrated (to say the least!) about his inability to answer guest questions, he took the tasting notes home and learned them parrot-fashion.
Then, on his first visit to a winery, he was fascinated by the processes through which the humble grape could be transformed into great wine, as well as by the sheer number of grape varietals, and how the different grapes need different treatments in order to express their unique characteristics. He learned that the grapevine is essentially a weed that needs to be tamed!
Kyle heard his calling. He became Junior Winemaker’s Assistant to Anthony Kock who was then Assistant White Winemaker at Spier in Stellenbosch, but is today Senior White Winemaker. Kock, whom Kyle considers his mentor, has since been receiving a number of accolades for his winemaking prowess.
The first wine that really inspired Kyle was a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier, produced at Spier. It is an unlikely blend, but perfectly brought together by acidity, richness, and texture. Today, Kyle’s go-to varietal is (old vine) South African Chenin Blanc. From this he can create a rich and textured wine with a sense of stone fruit sweetness running through it, but with a very dry finish.
Little surprise, then, that The Flying Winemaker is now producing wine in South Africa, and the first vintage will be released later this year. Lots to look forward to!BY ANNABEL JACKSON