We asked Junel van der Merwe CWM, the international brand ambassador for Alvi’s Drift a few questions.

What does it mean to you to win the Trophy for Sparkling wine of the year for the second time?

This SA Women’s Wine & Spirit Awards trophy brings us so much joy because it affirms what we intuitively knew while we dreamed this wine into being. We did not chase trends but rather dared to be true to our passion, our vision, and ourselves as a brand this wine would ultimately have all the makings of a winner – and now, a true champion. Receiving this accolade from a judges’ panel of extraordinarily talented women who themselves have overcome the impossible throughout their lives, this award means even more to us. Having won the second Trophy for Sparkling wine is an incredible honour and an achievement of which we are very proud. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make this happen for one of our favourite wines.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a passionate life-long student of wine; from history to biochemistry to geography to food, culture, and the relationships built around wine. I believe in taking hold of and living this most incredible adventure called life to the utmost. Starting in this industry in wine education and presentation, I have been privileged to meet some of the most wonderful people, work with some of the most aspirational brands worldwide and develop life-long friendships in this industry here and around the world.

I graduated as a Cape Wine Master in 2004 and saw this as just the beginning of my wine education. I am blessed to lecture at the Cape Wine Academy and raise and share a mutual passion with many of today’s Cape Wine Masters.

I have, in my time, had the privilege of representing South African wines internationally that opened my eyes to how the world perceives this country of ours and ignited a passion for telling the real and unique story of South African wine.

Presently, I have the privilege of working alongside Alvi and the team at Alvi’s Drift as the international brand ambassador. I get to enjoy the contentment of family and the joy of creating and sharing beautiful wines with extraordinary people from all over the world under the expanse of my beloved South African sky.

What makes this wine special?

When we set out to produce a high-quality brut rosé sparkling wine to complement our Cap Classique range, we were told it would be impossible. At Alvi’s Drift, we don’t accept the impossible. Our challenge? Creating a wine of the same quality as a Cap Classique, but fresher. With the same mouthfeel, yet without ageing. It had to be elegant but unpretentious, fun on the palate, yet dry. Aspirational, but accessible to all. More importantly, it would be a wine that enhances people’s enjoyment of what truly matters in life, the celebration of special times, special occasions, and special milestones – with the people who matter most.

And so, the Alvi’s Drift Brut Rosé was born – it is a wine created for summertime enjoyment, a wine to celebrate good times, great friendships, and special moments. We feel it has achieved what we set out to do and the market response and your recognition through this award confirm our suspicion: that we may be onto something great here.

What grapes do you use, and what is unique about these vineyards?

The distinct grape varieties made famous by the great Champagne houses of France take center stage in this blend. Pinot noir and Chardonnay are the cornerstones of Alvis Drift’s sparkling wine portfolio. What makes our sparkling wines unique is the fantastic diversity of our terroir.

The ancient limestone banks on the slopes of Alvis Drift’s “Moordkuilsdrift” vineyards produce outstanding and complex Chardonnay from up to 20-year-old vines. This special area accounts for the bulk of our chardonnay while most of the Pinot noir and a little Chardonnay comes from younger vines on black slate soils which produce exceptional Pinot noir and gives the chardonnay its characteristic lovely lemony character.

What is the most important thing to keep in mind when making a Sparkling wine?

Making the best possible base wine. It starts with picking at the optimal time to ensure that we have great natural acidity while retaining the essence of the marvellous lemon character of the Chardonnay and the bold red fruit character of the Pinot noir.