10 questions for the man in charge of the Sydney Back Brandy
1. So Guillaume, not only do you look after the wines at Backsberg, but you are in charge of the Sydney Back Brandy range as well. How does that feel?
I’m very fortunate to be making both wine and brandy and to see the whole process through from the start to the end. When we are working with the brandy in the cellar, there is definitely an added excitement among the cellar crew.
2. What kind of grapes do you use to make the Sydney Back Brandy?
We only use high-quality Chenin Blanc grapes. A quality start in brandy is extremely important; if you cut corners you will be found out later as any mistake is magnified in the process.
3. When did Backsberg start producing Brandy and what does your range include?
In 1990, legislation changed allowing private estates to produce estate brandies. The late Sydney Back jumped at this opportunity and imported a pot still from France and started producing brandy. In 1995, the brandy won the Domecq Trophy for the best brandy in the world at the London International Wine and Spirit Competition! Our range now includes a 5, 10 and 15 year pot still brandy.
4. What was your first encounter with premium brandy?
Just after finishing high school I went on holiday with some friends. As it happened one friend picked up a nasty stomach bug on the trip. We had been saving a bottle of Oude Molen 8 year old brandy for the end of the holiday to celebrate our finishing school. The brandy was opened prematurely, however, to ease the pain of the friend. I can’t prove the medicinal properties of the brandy, but the mood of both the sick friend and that of the group certainly picked up on tasting a premium brandy for the first time.
5. How do you think the premium brandy market in South Africa has changed over the last five to ten years?
There is a definite excitement and awareness among more people regarding premium South African brandies. I also believe that more and more young people are starting to appreciate quality pot still brandies.
6. What can we look forward to going forwards from Backsberg?
We are currently selling some of our 15 year pot still brandy, but we still have a fair amount of stock in maturation. In 2016, Backsberg will be a 100 years old. All I am saying is watch the space…
7. If you had to single out a favourite brandy aroma what would that be?
I love the nutty character of older brandies.
8. What’s your ultimate food and brandy pairing?
It’s got to be a decadent dessert pairing. You can’t go wrong with chocolate mud pie and a fine pot still brandy.
9. Are there any misconception that you think people have about brandy?
Without wanting to sound snobbish, I feel that too many people still think brandy should be mixed with Coke in order to be enjoyed. Premium brandy is a whole new world that I would love more people to explore.
10. For those looking to further their brandy knowledge and appreciation, what would you recommend?
I highly recommend reading the book “Fire Water”, which provides a brilliant overview on brandy in South Africa. I would encourage people to taste as many pot still brandies from different producers as possible . There is also a brandy route which makes for a great day out in the Cape Winelands.