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Wednesday 6 November 2019

Meet the New Zealander making wine in Johannesburg

Meet the New Zealander making wine in the only urban winery in Johannesburg - thousands of kilometres from where wine grapes are grown. 

Kathy Gerakaris is the winemaker at Gerakaris Family Wines in the Johannesburg suburb of Craighill Park. 

A globetrotter who has lived in Canada and the UK, Gerakaris is also a ski instructor and dive master. 

She completed a post-graduate diploma in viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University in New Zealand and has worked in several top South African cellars including Thelema and Flagstone. 

In 2008, she moved to Johannesburg and launched Gerakaris Family Wines with her husband. It is a marketing company focused on bringing boutique Cape wineries to the Johannesburg market.

More recently she has added garagiste winemaking to her accomplishments. 

The fruit is sourced from the Swartland region in the Cape and trucked overnight in chilled trucks to Johannesburg - a distance of 1400km. The grapes arrive as full bunches and the crushing is done at the winery. 

“When you consider how the grapes have travelled, it is remarkable," Gerakaris told local media. 

It took Gerakaris and her husband a couple of years to find the right location, and it took another two years to get a licence.

The first vintage in 2010 produced a cabernet sauvignon, but today the winery produces henin blancs and shirazes. By 2018 she had moved the vats and the wine-making equipment to a converted farm shed. 

“Having a winery up here in Joburg is what gives me the greatest pleasure," Gerakaris said. "People come here and are able to see it. It is an amazingly relaxed urban farm, kind of vibe.”

Gerakaris Family Wines also provides wine education to professionals who may wish to know more about wine, supplies private markets and has clients to which it provides a variety of wine consulting services.

“One of our big benefits is that we don’t own a farm," she says. "We buy in grapes. Investing in a farm is a massive undertaking: the cost of land, the cost of planting, the cost of working it, the time involved before you get a good crop."

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