Who doesn’t love a good meet-cute?
While in Cape Town, working on getting Culture Wine Co. off the ground, I had a meeting with Matthew, a good friend and owner of a local favorite wine bar, Leo’s. I showed up a bit early and found two young guys pouring their wine in hopes that Leo’s would pour them. I jumped into the tasting and immediately found myself captivated by the wine and the story.
Childhood friends turned business-partners, Paul and Doug are two of the nicest guys in the wine business. After studying winemaking at Stellenbosch University together, they took jobs at two of South Africa’s most prominent wineries; Paul at De Trafford and Doug at Waterford. They stayed in contact throughout, but never expected they’d launch a business together.
However, in 2016 their paths crossed again and they decided to make a barrel of each, Grenache Gris and Marsanne, producing 25 cases per wine. At the time, Paul was working at Publik Wine Bar in Cape Town – one of the top in the country – and the owner was so intrigued by the wine they made, he convinced Paul to create a label so Publik could sell it.
Later that year, Paul and Doug decided to go all-in. While considering the best way forward, an old, but newly remodeled farmhouse from Doug’s extended family came up as an option. This little farm is stunning, and situated on a saltwater lagoon with dozens of Tasmanian blue gum trees dotted throughout. It reminds me of the Marin and Sonoma coastlines of California- specifically, Tomales Bay.
The guys bought the modest little farmhouse and Maanschijn was born. Pronounced Maan-Schein, or Moon Shine in English, the name comes from the highest mountain peak that looms directly behind their cellar. Shortly after the purchase, the guys planted a few rows of Sauvignon Blanc just a few hundred feet away.
The farmhouse has three tiny, ~50 sq. ft rooms: One is an office where they often take very grainy Zoom calls; the next is a cellar equipped with a few bins and a hand crank basket press; the last is a barrel room with about 25 barrels that makes up the entirety of their Herbarium production. Just down the road the guys produce their Brunch Club wines. In time, the goal is to bring all production under one roof.
Paul and Doug’s vision is to create a wine that exemplifies Walker Bay. They work with grapes from the region’s varied sandstone, quartz and clay soils, imparting a remarkable texture and a distinctive stony and saline minerality to their wines. They also source grapes from all three sub-regions of Walker Bay, adding layer upon layer of complexity to their wines.
I was captivated by the wines when I first tasted at Leo’s, and I was even more so once I learned more of the story and visited this incredible facility. These guys are primed to be stars in the South African wine scene, so be sure to catch them on their way up!
By the way, Leo’s started pouring Maanschijn after their visit. So, when you’re in Cape Town next, be sure to stop there and ask for a glass from the Moon Shine Boys!
Region: Walker Bay
Grapes Produced: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinotage, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Mourvedre
Farming Method: Organic
Yeast Type: Native
Wine Style: Minimal Intervention