Wine Trailblazers: Lukas Van Loggerenberg

It’s one of those blazing Stellenbosch days. The heat hangs like a curtain, switching in and out amongst the historic oaks, their centuries of growth offering relief in the form of dappled shade. The City of Oaks, or Eikestad as it’s known is one of South Africa’s oldest towns, Cape Dutch architecture reigns supreme, old vines are rooted deep, and the two most important winemaker breeding grounds are here, Elsenburg and Stellenbosch University.

But interlaced with all this tradition is plenty of innovation too. Artisan bakers, boundary pushing chefs, contemporary design and hip eateries aplenty add life and rhythm to the immutable backdrop. On a busy corner I find one such place, The Green Goose Eatery, looking as fresh as a daisy with its cool green and white colour palette. Winemaker Lukas Van Loggerenberg is waiting at a table for me, with a perfectly chilled-looking bottle of the Kamaraderie Chenin Blanc 2018.

Lukas has that thing Stellenbosch has, a deeply ingrained respect and knowledge of tradition, juxtaposed with fresh thinking; and because of that, some of the freshest wines produced yet on the African continent.

Lukas opens the chenin with a satisfying pop and we get stuck into our respective glasses, and the subject matter, him. Lukas is quickly making a name for himself both locally and abroad as one of South Africa’s rising stars, he’s almost universally praised for making pure and precise wines that favour low alcohols. His wines are made ‘naturally’ in that spontaneous fermentation is employed and the wines mature in old oak, but they have none of the funk, the detractors of so-called ‘natural wines’ abhor. No, Lukas’s wines are fine and fresh, and clearly been made for enjoyment.


I like what he says about spontaneous fermentation: ‘Sometimes the yeast needs to struggle, just like the vineyard does.’

“It’s just wine, we overcomplicate it; it’s either yuck or yummy,” he says this with a smile, and then apologises, “sorry my voice today sounds like an old crocodile in the river.” Our conversation goes like this, continually peppered with self-deprecating, humble statements.

Van Loggerenberg Wines is the own-label project of Lukas and his wife Roxanne (the very small maiden vintage was in 2016). “I always wanted to do my own thing.”

And though winemaking wasn’t always a part of that ambition he did grow up surrounded by vines in Rawsonville. “I actually wanted to get into medicine, and when I was around 16-years-old I realised my family was not financially able to send me to medical school. At the time it kind of broke my heart, but I quickly made peace with it.

After school he did two harvests at Daschbosch cellars. “I met some great people there.

 “Then I went to study at Elsenburg,” his face lights up when he talks about those formative years, not only did he form friendships for life, but he discovered the camaraderie of the SA wine industry. He remembers, for example, how Willie Van Zyl, the koshuis (boarding house) manager helped him get a scholarship.

And it’s this spirit of camaraderie that inspired the very wine in front of us. Chenin blanc sourced from a single-vineyard in Paarl, planted in the early 1960s. The label depicts overlaid images of clasped hands.

All of his wines have stories to them portrayed with collage-like labels. Before he got to doing his own thing, he had a stint at Rijks followed by two harvests in the States in the Finger Lakes. Back at home it was then to Druk My Niet in Paarl. But then it was time to jump. His Geronimo Cinsaut is named in tribute to the ‘leap of faith’ it took for them to go on their own.

But sometimes when you jump, you fall. As was the case with the Break a Leg Blanc de Noir. “I named the wine after my left knee-cap…” he says wryly.

“At what was supposed to be the start of the first vintage of Van Loggerenberg Wines I broke my knee-cap in a freak accident,” he explains. “During harvest I had to undergo two major knee surgeries. But friends and family helped out in the cellar doing punch-downs when I was in hospital. They also arranged for a cellarhand to assist me when I got back.”

 “Someone suggested I make a barrel of rosé and sell to family and friends to help with the medical bills,” continues Lukas. One day Richard Kelley MW was visiting, and he spontaneously decided to show him the wine, “I think I was a bit tipsy!”

It was a good thing he did, soon the wine was bottled, labelled—and a runaway (so-to-speak) success. He deftly turned a bad situation into a positive, an anecdote that speaks profoundly to his character.

One of the biggest moments in his wine life so far, was at a U.K wine show, when he felt a hand on his shoulder, and his wine hero Steven Spurrier said to him—of his cabernet franc, the Breton—this reminds me of the wines coming out of the Loire in the ‘70s.

Talk about a nail on the head, the name ‘Breton’ is a Loire synonym for cab franc. The Breton has since also gone on to much critical acclaim.

But he hasn’t let all he fuss get to him just yet. He is still happiest at home with Roxanne and their two-year-old son, Thomas (a baby girl is due in April!), or with his feet in the ocean trying to catch some fish.


He also loves nothing more than to gather around a long wooden table in his home, which he has dubbed ‘The Knights’ Table’ sharing food and wine.

“I just want everyone to drink wine! Wine tells a story, our wines are a postage stamp unique to SA. Our cellar doesn’t bottle wines, we bottle vintages, we bottle those 365 days, not one vintage has been the same in 100 years,” he says emphatically. “How amazing is that?”

“But sometimes I still like drinking a good brandy and coke,” he says laughing.

Lukas Van Loggerenberg; humble, talented, and truly fun to be around, is a breath of fresh air, as are his fine, soulful wines.

- Malu Lambert