winemakeR Arid wines get their inspiration from winemaker, Michael van Niekerk, who grew up on the remote farm, Gemsbokkolk, in the Northern Cape with its beautiful arid landscape and wildlife. After having navigated the hurdles of boarding school life from the early age of seven, he relates life’s barriers to the seven gates he had to open on the dusty jeep track to get to the farm, those being the last hurdles to overcome before freedom. ‘Freedom’ was spent herding sheep, air rifle shooting, playing 3-man cricket games and spotting a shooting star or passing satellite while sleeping under the stars. “Where are you from? Are there vineyards there?” were the ‘frowning’ questions on signing up to study Viticulture & Wine science in Stellenbosch. The same questions were asked three years later when on the first day at work doing a post graduation winemaking internship in Australia. Leaving Down Under, with ‘minglish’ (strange English) and ‘Hansie Cronje’ for a nickname, internships in the United States and Italy followed before settling in South Africa. Michael has spent the past twelve years as a winemaker and viticulturist in Stellenbosch, pioneering the production of No Sulphur Added wines by using indigenous South African wood tannins. His winemaking philosophy reflects his roots, Simplistic & Minimalistic, and believes that a wine is made in the vineyard with minimal intervention in the cellar. In 2020 Michael & Elizna were blessed with the birth of their son, MC, who has started opening his own ‘seven gates’ on his journey through life.