Simonsig enters an exciting new phase with third-generation winemaker Michael Malan taking the reins as cellarmaster. He follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, Frans, and father Johan, who not only established Simonsig as one of South Africa’s most innovative wineries, but also one of the most consistently awarded.
Michael takes on his new role ahead of this year’s grape harvest with Simonsig also having made two key appointments – Danna de Jongh and Frank Slabbert.
Danna was formerly the winemaker at Constantia Uitsig and has taken responsibility for Simonsig’s Cap Classiques; and Frank, who was previously at Constantia Glen, steps in as assistant winemaker.
“Danna and Frank joined us towards the end of last year, which has given us good time to prepare ahead of harvest,” says Michael. “And, I’m very excited about the prospects. Every successful enterprise builds on the shoulders of giants, but also relies on developing new ideas. These changes take us down that road.
“It’s also significant to us that they dovetail with another milestone for Simonsig this year,” he adds.
Michael’s grandfather, Frans, is credited as the pioneer of South Africa’s first Cap Classique ever made – the iconic Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021. It also marked the birth of the country’s Cap Classique category. But, while Kaapse Vonkel was conceived in 1971, Frans bottled the first wine, a Chenin Blanc, under the Simonsig label in 1968 which, in 2023, will be 55 years ago.
The latest harvest at Simonsig got underway last week, and there is much excitement around the condition of the fruit. “This was certainly the earliest start of harvest for us, as far as I can remember,” says Michael, who adds that a very dry, but healthy growing season promises excellent quality.
Both new appointees starting harvest on the estate are Nambia-born. Danna was raised on a farm, and, as has become tradition for many Namibian school-leavers, she embarked on studies in Germany. She completed a BSc in Viticulture and Oenology at Geisenheim University in Germany in 2016, and soon after joined Constantia Uitsig as assistant winemaker. A year later, she was promoted to winemaker and viticulturist.
Prior to joining the Simonsig team, Danna worked at Schloss Vaux in Germany, a premium sparkling wine producer in the Rheingau region that produces a wide range of German sparkling wines. She has also gained invaluable winemaking experience in Austria, Germany, Portugal, and the USA.
Although born in South Africa’s northerly neighbour, Frank spent much of his schooling in Stellenbosch before embarking on studies at Stellenbosch University and Elsenburg. He graduated with a B. Agric degree and subsequently worked at Muratie, Eagle’s Nest and Constantia Glen in addition to doing a harvest in New York state.
In this next step in their careers, Danna and Frank step onto the equivalent of a bullet-train of excellence. While Simonsig has a long history of pioneering leadership, its wines have consistently featured as a top performer. In 2022 alone, the Stellenbosch estate notched up 39 significant medals and acknowledgements in local and international shows. These events include Decanter, Wine Enthusiast, the Tim Atkin MW South Africa Report, Michelangelo International Wine Awards, Absa Top 10 Pinotage, the Amorim Cap Classique Challenge, Winemag Reports and Veritas Awards.