Winemaker Talk: Hans Vinding-Diers

A globe-trotting winemaker makes outstanding wines in the Old World and the New
Apr 6, 2007

Hans Vinding-Diers, 37, was born in South Africa's Stellenbosch district, and is of Danish heritage. Raised in Bordeaux on his family-owned properties of Château Rahoul and Château de Landiras in Graves, Vinding-Diers' winemaking education came on a worldwide stage, working at wineries in Australia, Chile, Uruguay, South Africa, France, Spain, Portugal and Hungary.

Vinding-Diers now focuses on his two main projects: Argentina's Bodega Noemía de Patagonia, which he co-owns with countess Noemi Cinzano, and Argiano, Cinzano's Tuscany estate. He also has a Pinot Noir project in Argentina called Bodega Chacra.

Wine Spectator: What was your first vintage in the wine business, in any capacity?
Hans Vinding-Diers: I started in 1987 as a cellar hand at Tyrrell's vineyards in New South Wales, Australia, for a year.

WS: You've been all over the globe to make wine. What other wineries have you worked at?
HVD: Along with Tyrrell's, I've worked at Rustenberg estate and the Finlayson's in South Africa, Pisano [Uruguay], the Royal Tokaji Wine Company [Hungary], Château Rahoul and Château de Landiras and the Canale estate [Argentina].

WS: What got you interested in being a winemaker?
HVD: Even though I was brought up in the winemaking world, I wanted to be a theater director. Until I met Murray Tyrrell in 1987, and he gave me the bug.

WS: Who have been your biggest influences as a winemaker?
HVD: Murray Tyrrell, at Tyrrell's; Etienne LeRiche, who at the time was at Rustenberg; Paul Draper at Ridge; my cousin Peter Sisseck [Pingus]; Nicolás Catena [Bodega Catena Zapata]; and my father, Peter, who brought me up drinking the great classics and for his great inspiration.

WS: What is it about Argentina that you like?
HVD: I love Argentina for its sheer beauty and for its many great terroirs ranging all the way from the south right up to the north of the country. The water is very pure, the photosynthesis and thermic amplitudes [the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures] are outstanding. Also the incredibly old pre-phylloxera vines, the country's great wine legacy and most of all the wonderful Argentinean hospitality.

WS: Bodega Noemía de Patagonia is located in Patagonia, off the beaten track in Argentina. Why pick such a remote spot, versus the main wine region of Mendoza?
HVD: In 1998 I went to consult at Humberto Canale winery, in the Rio Negro, Patagonia, founded in 1909.

One Sunday, during vintage at Humberto Canale, I was bored and decided to clean up one of the rooms in the cellar. It was the room where they kept all the witness bottles prior to each bottling, in case someone would claim a fault in the wine, one could compare with these bottles.

After dusting off some of them, I discovered a real Ali Baba's cave full of old vintages from Humberto Canale—wines from the '30s, '40s, '60s ... Naturally I opened some. I was astonished by the intensity of the fruit, the elegance, freshness, minerality and most of all the differences between vintages. This really was quite convincing.

After two years of frantic searching [for a vineyard], Noemi and I found a plot of old vines of Malbec dating back to 1932, thus was born Noemía.

WS: What is your favorite food pairing with the Noemía Malbec?
HVD: Racks of Patagonian lamb and of course the fabulous Argentinean steak are great combinations.

WS: Other than one of your own, what is your favorite wine?
HVD: It is a very difficult question as there are so many great wines around. The latest I have had which was an absolute delight: Château Haut-Brion 1990.

WS: If you could be one other person in the wine business for one day, who would it be, and why?
HVD: Robert de Goulaine [owner of Marquis de Goulaine in France's Loire Valley]. He is a winemaker, a traveling writer, poet, humanist and philosopher. He wrote "Le livre des vins rares ou disparus," a true marvel of wine stories coming from his remarkable wine knowledge. He is also has one of the world's biggest collections of live butterflies. I would love to meet him one day.

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