Teddy Hall, 42 (though he says he feels 24), is part of a growing handful of South African producers committed to top-quality Chenin Blanc, which he makes as winemaker and owner of Rudera winery and of his eponymous label. He also makes very good to outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah under the Rudera label, with grapes sourced from leased vineyards. Combined, his two labels produce about 10,000 cases a year, of which about 15 percent comes to the United States.
Wine Spectator: What got you interested in being a winemaker?
Teddy Hall: I grew up in a home where drinking wine with meals was the norm. When I was 17, I was visiting friends of my mother where I tasted a Burgundy and realized immediately that wine is something special. I've been hooked since.
WS: What was your first vintage?
TH: I did cellar-rat work in 1993. My first solo vintage was 1994, followed by studies at the University of Stellenbosch until the end of 1998. 1999 was my first "real" vintage.
WS: What wineries have you worked at?
TH: As a cellar rat, I was at Boschendal [in Paarl], as stagiaire at Château Gombaude-Guillot [Pomerol], then as winemaker at Rozendal [Stellenbosch]. As a student, I did my practical under John Goshen at La Provence in Franschhoek in 1997. Then I was winemaker at Goedgeloof, where we started the Kanu brand in 1998 and made the first Rudera vintage in 2000. In August 2003, Rudera became my full-time pride and joy.
WS: Who have been your biggest influences as a winemaker?
TH: Jan Boland Coetzee [winemaker at Vriesenhof], Beyers Truter [former Kanonkop winemaker, now at Beyerskloof] and Neil Ellis [of Neil Ellis winery].
WS: What is it about Chenin Blanc that you like?
TH: It's suited to our climate and terroir, resistant to disease and rewards effort tenfold.
WS: What's your favorite food pairing with Chenin Blanc?
TH: Chenin Blanc goes with anything—except medium-rare rump steak. It all depends on the style of Chenin you choose. I would say the simpler the food the better—for the food and for the wine. Fresh fish pan-fried with spring veggies must be up there with the best dry Chenin; a salad with Parmigiano and fresh fruit for off-dry Chenin and Roquefort with a late-harvest Chenin.
WS: What's your favorite wine, other than your own?
TH: The S.A. Huët Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu 1947.
WS: If you could be another person in the wine business for one day, who would it be, and why?
TH: Michael Broadbent. He tastes the best old vintage wines more regularly than anyone else I know of.
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