Image sourced from www.trizanne.co.za.
They say women are good at multi-tasking; Joanne Gibson says Trizanne Barnard thrives on it.
Her name seemed to keep popping up all over the place - at an evening of Lebanese cuisine perfectly complemented by the Year of the Rooster rosé she made with Bruce Jack in 2010; as the winemaker responsible for Francis Pratt's amazingly successful The Berrio Weathergirl 2009; at a gathering of organic wine growers, where Josef Lazarus of Lazanou revealed that she was his consultant; and more recently when Painted Wolf's 'alpha dog', Jeremy Borg, disclosed that she was a key member of the 'pack' responsible for his top-scoring Shiraz 2009 at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show 2012.
Trizanne Barnard (nee Pansegrouw) already had a fairly impressive CV, having landed with her bum in the proverbial butter when her first job as assistant winemaker at Klein Constantia led seamlessly to (then) owner Lowell Jooste appointing her as winemaker at Anwilka, his premium Stellenbosch red collaboration with Bordeaux-based Hubert de Boüard of Château Angélus and former Château Cos d'Estournel owner Bruno Prats. "The deal was finalised at the end of 2004, giving me four months to get the cellar ready for harvest - shoo, it was tight!"
But her maiden vintage was described as "the finest red wine I have ever had from South Africa ... world class stuff, exceptional wine" by none other than Robert Parker Jnr - not bad for a girl who grew up in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng; whose first proper taste of winemaking came on a daytrip to Israel's Golan Heights while she was working on a kibbutz the year after matric (breeding Koi fish, of all things!).
"Anwilka was excellent for me in terms of exposure. I did a harvest abroad every year, at Lalande de Pomerol at La Fleur de Boüard in 2005; with Jean-louis Chave at Hermitage in the northern Rhone in 2006; an unforgettable vintage in the Douro Valley, Portugal, working on the Chryseia Project, created by Bruno Prats and Paul Symington."
The obvious question is why she would leave such a high-profile position.
"After four vintages of making just the one premium red wine, I felt I'd hit a ceiling and I couldn't see anything changing soon. Since university it had been my dream to do my own label, so I decided to take the plunge." ('Plunge' being an appropriate word for this keen surfer, whose label design features the crest of a wave.)
Trizanne Signature Wines is now in its fourth year. "It's been tough at times," she admits. "Winemaking isn't just about making wine - there's so much admin and red tape, not to mention the marketing and selling. You have to be good at everything. And I don't have a financial partner so I've had to cash in my pension and enlarge the bond, that sort of thing. I'm just lucky to have a husband making sure we have a roof over our heads!"
Malan, her husband, is a SAP software-consultant. "But he loves wine. He's my biggest fan."
Their first year of marriage was Trizanne's maiden vintage, which saw her based in remote Elim for the harvest: "I was away from home for about 10 weeks, but Malan was great about it. During harvest you're a zombie anyway!"
Less understanding is the new man in Trizanne's life, 14-month-old Daniel. "Family comes first," she says of her decision to miss the 2012 harvest in order to give him her full attention. "Instinct told me it was the right thing to do, but I still felt torn - there's so much pressure for women to prove themselves. But having taken the break, I'm even more motivated now than I was before."
Despite having made a Swartland Syrah in 2009, her focus is firmly on the cool southerly maritime ward of Elim. "I just love it. It's this untouched jewel of the winelands, so vast, with an amazing energy that I haven't experienced anywhere else. I prefer cooler climate wines anyway. They're more elegant. Also, maybe they're a safer bet as far as climate change is concerned."
Her maiden Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2009 is arguably only coming into its own now, the 13% barrel-fermented Semillon component adding layers of waxy, creamy, almost honeyed texture to the crisp, citrussy, slightly herbal Sauvignon Blanc. The 2010 needs more time to open up; the 2011 already showing incredible intensity. And then there's the more tropical Indwe 2011 she sources for a bulk wine client in the USA.
"I must seem like a complete Sauvignon nut," laughs Trizanne. "I'm not! I'd love to expand my range but you have to start slowly, firstly because it takes time for people to notice you, secondly because it's not possible financially."
One thing's for sure: people are noticing her, even though she isn't one to throw her weight around - not even in her role as a consultant. "I'm not a Michel Rolland - it's more a partnership than me dictating to anyone. I'm mostly just a sounding board when it comes to the blending; the final decisions about what goes into bottle."
So what might future vintages see Trizanne bottling under her own label? "I love working with Syrah, it's such a forgiving grape, and I'll definitely make Riesling if I can get my hands on some beautiful grapes. Hopefully I'll also make a MCC one day. There are so many options - that's what I love about wine."