At what point does the pupil begin to educate the teacher? It is a relevant question to Franco Lourens, who spent many 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 used to 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. Today, Franco shares cellar space in Paarl with Lukas van Loggerenberg from Van Loggerenberg Wines.
Franco grew up surrounded by vines in Paarl, and while his grandfather was a grape farmer, Franco never knew him and the wine bug skipped a generation with his parents. Franco’s first memory of wine was riding his bike to school on vineyard-lined streets sticky with grapes that had fallen off the backs of trucks. Through osmosis, the winemaking desire slowly set in, and a degree from the University of Stellenbosch would soon follow. After uni, Franco sailed off to work at Vasse Felix in Margaret River and at Ramey Cellars in Sonoma. The gears were turning. Later, after many years back in South Africa working alongside Chris Alheit, Franco found his own footing in the industry, falling in love with the immense diversity of grapes, soils, and climates across the Western Cape. He launched Lourens Family Wines with the intention of showcasing a host of different terroirs – whether it be a site in the suburbs of Cape Town, the mountains of Piekenierskloof, or the alluvial river plains of Wellington.
Working mostly with old-vines, Franco has become masterful at the intricacies of blending to craft quietly confident wines, an acumen that has earned him a deserved place among South Africa’s best new-wave producers. His wines have a precision and totality rarely seen in a brand this young. They 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 Lourens Family Wines. In a short, but sustainable time, Franco has crafted some of South Africa’s most exciting and in-demand wines.