At what point does the pupil begin to educate the teacher? It is a relevant question to Franco Lourens, who has spent the past few years as the prodigious Chris Alheit’s right hand, putting more and more of his time into his eponymous wines. Butch, as Chris is better known, and Franco share a winemaking space in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley and Franco is quick to thank Butch for guidance in vineyard selection as well as winemaking practices.
Franco grew up surrounded by vines in Paarl, but not in a farming or winemaking family. Early on he thought it would be ideal to have free and unlimited wine at his disposal…idealism at its core. He would ride his bicycle by vineyards and see countless trucks full of grapes driving down the road and this is what generated that winemaking desire from within. While at the University of Stellenbosch he really fell in love with Rhône varieties, but it wasn’t until after his travels in Margaret River working at Vasse Felix and in Sonoma working alongside David Ramey that he truly found the style of wine he wanted to make. Franco worked in many cellars back home in South Africa getting a better appreciation for the vastness of the Cape as well as immense diversity of grapes, soils and climate. He works with vineyards literally spread throughout the Cape, from a site in the suburbs of Cape Town north to Piekenierskloof and as far east as Wellington.
Franco’s wines have a precision and totality rarely seen in a brand this young. The wines are more mature than one would expect and clearly Franco leans on the experiences and personalities that have come into his life along this journey. The future is incredibly bright for Franco and his family. In a short, but sustainable time, he has crafted some of South Africa’s most exciting and in-demand wines.