South Africa's first winemaking Master of Wine
When it comes to South Africa wine, Richard Kershaw’s a bona fide legend — he’s a Master of Wine (one of only 416 in the world) and the first MW to make wine in South Africa — now he’s thrilled to be making the special projects of his dreams, exclusively for you!
Angel funding gave Richard the jump his one-man business needed, allowing him to tap into South Africa's huge potential to make spectacular wines without hiking up the price.
With Angel funding, Richard can give every wine his personal touch from start to finish, selecting grapes from small, esteemed vineyards tended by grapegrowers he knows personally and hand-crafting each vintage with his signature minimal intervention style.
Richard Kershaw's Story
Richard Kershaw believes that things in life rarely follow a straight trajectory, and he’s glad. This fits nicely with the wine industry, where the snap decision making required daily could easily send one spiraling off course. In the vineyard, he’s invigorated by the daily task of reacting to what Mother Nature throws his way, and he’s never turned up a last-minute opportunity to travel halfway across the globe and smush some grapes. Richard has seized every opportunity on his journey to becoming a winemaker, and it’s led to quite the impressive pedigree, but it’s never felt like work to him.
“I love the fact that I have never had to work – it is simply a hobby that someone fortunately pays me for!”
Richard grew up in Sheffield, England, which is basically the opposite of wine country. He tells us there is much more concrete than soil there, and not a grapevine in sight! Despite his family enjoying lots of great wine during his upbringing (he remembers a bottle of Puligny Montrachet being on the dining table) he didn’t pay it any attention until he was almost out of the house. Actually, he didn’t drink at all until he was 18, and not just because he’s a law abiding citizen.
“Essentially, I believe one of the reasons for this late start was the sense of smell. I tended to find whisky smelt of vomit and beer of stale bread. [Eventually,] wine began to take on more interesting flavors, and coupled with this was a mental processing semi-dysfunction!”
He hadn’t yet become transfixed by the nuanced, sensory aspects of winemaking, but he was becoming interested in wine production’s technical, scientific aspects. Early in his childhood, he’d been improperly diagnosed with dyslexia. He carried that diagnosis with him until he was sixteen, when his parents and a couple of teachers had the feeling that his dreadful penmanship (“it looked like a spider had scurried across the page!”) was due to something else entirely. They were right!
“Through a week of intensive lab tests (long needles in spines, MRI scans, etc) it was discovered that my brain was simply working at a faster speed than my writing and the specialist suggested that this child must find a conduit for all this energetical brain power by finding a subject challenging enough to tackle it. Within two years that subject had been found and it was WINE!”
When asked why the study of wine kept his interest when other things couldn’t, Richard gave a laundry list of reasons. “[Winemaking] allowed me to look at sensory attributes, chemical attributes, winemaking practices, maturation and aging paradoxes, commercial knowledge, plant growing/viticulture, farming practices, mechanical engineering, biochemistry, organic chemistry, microbiology, history of wine…it goes on. Indeed it was the one subject that seemed to tie up all my school subjects in one sweep. And of course helped me to relax with its sedentary or calming powers.” Sadly, the wine bug bit while he was still just sixteen — it wasn’t a subject he could study in school, so he dropped out to study catering.
Although it wasn’t the primary focus of the degree, he was required to take classes about wine. In these classes, he realized he didn’t really want to go into catering at all, he just wanted to spend more time around wine. And so he dropped out again to do just that.
He obtained a pair of Wine & Spirit Education Trust certificates and a job with Majestic Wines, finally being close to a subject he felt he could apply himself to. He was fired six weeks later. Never one to feel thrown off track, he bounced back and found himself a floating manager position with La Reserve Fine Wines in London, indulging his wine curiosity by tasting, conversing, and reading. Eventually though, he wanted to get his hands dirty — he was ready to make wine.
He set off “furnished with a credit card and an unsecured bank loan (got to love the 90’s)” to learn from those who do instead of teach. He worked with Simi Winery in Sonoma, California; Viña San Pedro in Molina, Chile; Château Canon-la-Gaffelière in Bordeaux, France (during this stint he paused his travels briefly to write a book, get into some debt, and sell his car for a bicycle to get out of said debt); Weingut Herrenhof in Landau, Germany; The Royal Tokaji Wine Co. in Tokai, Hungary; and then found his way back to South Africa where he got a job with Mulderbosch Vineyards in Stellenbosch thanks to his talent as a pool player (you thought we were going to say winemaker)! After all of his traveling, he understood that even if he stayed in one place, there would be enough variation from vintage to vintage to keep things exciting.
“My philosophy: Despite the technological advances of man, nature itself has remained elusive. Each year it presents us with a fresh set of variables to which the winemaker must work with. He must coerce and cajole the nuances of each vintage from the grapes and let them express themselves to their fullest potential in the glass. This is achieved by using his knowledge and all the tools at his disposal to fine-tune the wine.”
So he stayed in South Africa — physically in one place, but still letting his curiosity pull him in a thousand different directions. While working his way up in Mulderbosch, he also took positions with Nelsons Creek Wine Estate and Kanu Wines, became South Africa’s only winemaking Master of Wine in 2011, began his own eponymously named wine brand in 2012, and released his first wines through Naked Wines UK in 2013. The man likes to be busy!
Working with Naked Wines
Working on his own brand means that he can pursue projects that truly pique his interest, work with people he truly wants to work with, and give each project the level of attention it deserves.
“All the grapes come from small parcels of land grown by mates and friends of mine whom I personally wanted to work with. And all the wines are hand-crafted, with minimal intervention and all the work done by myself or my wife or both!”
Through working with Naked Wines, he’s been able to make additions to his winemaking facility and craft some amazing wines that wouldn’t have been possible without Angel support.