Stander Maass joined Fort Simon in 2006 as the Assistant Winemaker under Marinus Bredell. In 2010 Stander was appointed as the Cellar Master.
Stander Maass has an Honours Degree in Viticulture from Stellenbosch University and a BSc Agriculture Viticulture and Oenology, where he completed his thesis on Sauvignon Blanc.
His experience includes working at Pernod Richard Boutique Cellar in New Zealand, where he made red and white wine, with an emphasis on white wine. He has also worked at Altydgedacht and Uiterwyk Wine Estates.
Stander’s vision and philosophy of winemaking
Winemaking to me is one of the greatest playgrounds one can possibly explore. It is certainly not the biggest as there are many measurable parameters that need to be monitored and managed, however I do not see winemaking as hard work. I spend many hours making wine but see it as “playing” and working towards a goal. The best part of winemaking is to experience the development of the wines as they age and see if the wine develops as I intended it to be. I see it as a relationship and as time goes by the wine reveals more and more of itself to me.
The art of winemaking can be compared to that of a painter who creates by using raw materials. The raw material in my case is the grapes and the finished wine my work of art. Winemaking is often seen as art, but according to me it is far more complex as science plays a major role in producing such a complex product. I was once told that wine is the most complex liquid on earth. Many wine drinkers are not aware of what goes in to producing wine.
The first step is the production of grapes and this is a science and art on its own. The growing of the grapes is influenced by many factors which ultimately determine the quality of the grapes. I like to tell people that one will never be able to produce a soft juicy steak form poor quality meat just as one will never be able to make a flavoursome balanced wine from poor quality grapes.
Different growing conditions lead to different flavours developing in the grapes and the latter leads to different wine styles. Fort Simon is one of the few farms that have a wide variety of growing conditions as the farm is situated right on top of the Bottelary Hills in a gulf, resulting in different slopes. We have a wide variety of grape due to the different slopes which contribute to making varied wines. The key in making special wines is to blend these wines so that they complement each other and ultimately create an even better wine.
Looking towards the future I would like to keep on producing wines that are complex, flavourful and which will age well. At the same time it is important to me that the wines can be enjoyed early as the modern era is all about time and people simply do not have the luxury to wait for wines to age. I believe the success of wine making lies in keeping up with modern technology as well as learning and experimenting. This will enable me to produce what the client wants and not necessarily what I as winemaker prefer to make.