Winery Philosophy: To Produce World Class South African Method Cap Classique Sparkling wine, that dazzles the mind, in the time honoured traditional way.
Melanie grew up in the Hex river valley where her late parent farmed with Export table grapes. She fell in love with the grape and vineyards and decided to venture into winemaking as her brothers were the farmers.
She studied BSC Agriculture at Stellenbosch University, worked in France at Louis Roederer Champagne, Moet & Chandon and Pommery in 3 vintages. She Worked at Distillers Corporation as Winemaker from 1994-1998. In 1998 Distillers corporation and Stellenbosch farmers winery merged and formed Distell. She was appointed as Sparkling winemaker of the group. She resigned in 2006 and started her own small sparkling wine production in 2003 which she launched in 2006.
Her Professional career:
1994 – Senior Wine Technologist at Distillers Corporation
1995 - 1998: Senior Sparkling winemaker at Distillers Corporation
The House of JC Le Roux (affiliate of Distillers) opened its doors in Devon Valley in Stellenbosch in September 1998 and from 1998 to 2001 she was appointed as Senior Sparkling wine maker at The House of JC le Roux.
2001-2006: Distillers Corporation and SFW merged and Melanie was appointed as Cellar Manager / Winemaker at the House of JC le Roux / Distell. This involved the management of the Wine cellar and making all sparkling wines for the JC le Roux and Distell group.
8 Million Liter’s carbonated champagne and 1 Million liter’s Cap Classique sparkling wine was made and all the cellar workers fell under her management. During her career at Distell she developed four new Cap Classique style sparkling wines JC Le Roux La Vallée (The first semi sweet MCC to be introduced to the South African Market), JC Le Roux Scintilla & Desiderius (Pongracz)(Two high end Special Cuvee’s made from selected vineyards).
2006 till present: Owns and produces her own Sparkling wine brand called: “Tanzanite”
She only produces Method Cap Classique sparkling wine made in the time honored traditional way.
Melanie specialized in the field of Method Cap Classique sparkling wine (French Champagne method) by working overseas.
She worked and observed the Champagne process during harvests in 1997 and 2002 in the Champagne region of France. She worked closely with the "Chef de Cave’s” at the Champagne houses:
Louis Roederer Champagne - Michel Pansu
Pommery Champagne - Thierry Gasco
Moet & Chandon Champagne - George Blanc
She also visited Sekt cellars in Austria and Germany specializing in making Charmatt (Tank Fermented) sparkling wine.
She was invited by VITEFF in 2009 to present her Method Cap Classique with a few other SA producers at the bi-annual VITEFF congress.
Melanie is married to Wentzel van der Merwe and have two daughters:
Marí van der Merwe (born 2001) and Hané van der Merwe (born 2003)
Awards for wines made during her career:
From 1998 till present:
Veritas: Double Gold for Pongrácz.
Veritas: Double gold for JC Le Roux Pinot Noir, Gold JC le Roux Pinot Noir.
4.5 Star Awards for 4 of her sparkling wines in WINE Magazine.
She won the SAA Cap Classique Trophy for Pongrácz Cap Classique 4 times.
Veritas Double Gold for JC le Roux Chardonnay and Gold for Desiderius.
London Wine Trade Fair: Pongrácz Award for "Best wine in its class"
Nominated: Business Woman of the Year - South Africa. She was awarded as one of the twenty leading Wine makers in South Africa - Melanie van der Merwe
Veritas: JC Le Roux Pinot Noir Rose Gold..
International wine and spirits competition: "Best wine in its class".
Winning Wine Magazine / Amorim Cork Cap Classique Challenge Desiderius 2000 Cap Classique, Desiderius 2001 and Scintilla MCC 2003 in 2006, 2008 and 2012.
Gold for Tanzanite MCC at Michelangelo Wine Competition, 4 star Platter’s wine Guide and Wine Magazine MCC challenge (since 2006). From 2015 till present 4.5 stars in Platter. Scored 93 and 90 Points from Tim Atkin British wine master in 2016 and 2018. According to Chef du Cave of Vieuve Cliquot Champagne: “Tanzanite Method Cap Classique is one of the best South African MCC’s on the market …if not the best one tasted.
2015,2016,2017 Tanzanite MCC and Tanzanite Magnum 2007 were in the 5 Star line up tasting for Platter’s Wine Guide.
Melanie received Publicity in:
Oprah Magazine, Wine Magazine, Wynlander, The Civil, Food & Home, Rooi Rose, Die Kat, Finesse
House and Leasure, Landbouweekblad, Leef magazine, TV SABC2. She also acts as speaker at various events.