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The Superpower of Erika Obermeyer

It would seem to me that in order to become a superhero, you’ve got to suffer a bit.

The Superpower of Erika Obermeyer

Deadpool had terminal cancer and then attained his mutant capabilities through a very painful experimental procedure. Batman’s parents died leaving him a fortune and a need to save Gotham and drive a Batmobile. Wolverine suffers BECAUSE of his mutant claws, which only upon having learnt to control this ability and use it for good, becomes one of the X-Men. (Marvel and DC Comic fans, please forgive any inaccuracies and accept that this is merely based on my own meandering understanding of said superheroes - I do NOT wish to discuss.) Freddie Mercury had four extra incisors which he believed allowed him his extraordinary range. POWERS then becoming the harnessing of some inner strength, deciding to MAKE something of a bad situation - which inevitably has more to do with the actual person than their power. 

A Super Palate 

Erika Obermeyer has a superpower. Longtime still wine, winemaker at Graham Beck and today proud owner of her own brand of wines - Erika has suffered since childhood from a progressive eye disease called Keratoconus. It basically means that your normally round cornea begins to bulge in a cone-like shape until your vision is so distorted that you have to get a cornea transplant. Which she has. For a sizeable amount of time Erika has had very limited vision, which is the SUFFERING she needed to nurture her superpower and use it for good. Her superpower being a super palate. By her own admission Erika has always had a heightened sense of taste, smell and a detailed memory, something she had to depend on ever more as her sight diminished. Despite struggling to see and a faulty depth perception however, she would go hiking in the Helderberg Mountains, honing her other senses to help navigate the way. This ethic of perseverance is the golden thread that has come to define her endeavours, the act of small efforts repeated every day to grand effect. It speaks of the woman, who has had two cornea transplants, launched her own brand while still in recovery (they are hoping for near perfect vision by the end of August 2019) and was heralded the Best Newcomer in the 2019 Platter’s Wine Guide for her first vintage. I love women in wine.

The Wine

Erika launched her own brand in 2016 under her own name, a big thing for someone who had worked very closely with the Beck family for over 12 years. (She left when they decided to focus on MCC exclusively.) In fact, Beck Family enterprises even looked into the possibility of launching and funding a boutique brand, similar to Erika Obermeyer Wines as Erika enjoyed a close relationship with old man Beck and his wife - though this never came to fruition and they parted ways in 2016. THEY of course having recognised her superpower early on. Her many years making wine for them meant an absolute wealth of experience and relationships with both grape growers and fellow winemakers - all of which is displayed to great effect in the resulting wines. OF the wines there are two ranges, the Erika Obermeyer range of three wines (two of which were awarded 5 Platter’s stars while the other only missed out by one point) and the second range consisting of the Flabbergast and Meticulous, Cinsault and Sauvignon Blanc respectively. Made from a variety of sites she has found over the years, what I find interesting is her use of Firgrove grapes, specifically older Syrah and Cinsault. There’s a kind of rediscovery of the winelands happening - where less touristy, more ‘WORKING’ wine regions and vines are being championed - vines you can’t necessarily visit and enjoy a cheese platter over (unless you follow Stephanie Wiid out to the vineyard with her car bar) - wine made for WINE’S sake, a pure passion project.

Timing is Everything 

Being a woman in wine in THOSE days must have posed its challenges, but far from being negative about restrictions in her winemaking, or having to follow other people’s planning, Erika is magnanimous in her praise of the various people who shaped her career - superhero like. Having worked with people like Emul Ross and JD Pretorius, who started their wine careers working as her assistant winemaker and harvest assistant respectively, Charles Hopkins, Mr Gary Baumgarten and of course Graham Beck himself, Erika is part of the fabric of our wine industry. It was JC Bekker (current CEO of Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons) who first encouraged her to trust herself. Today she says her only competition is herself, her limited sight perhaps also facilitating a level of introspection that ensures the unique authenticity of her wines. As we were concluding our tasting one delightful Friday morning, not long ago, having spoken about all the challenges of making wine coming from a big corporate setup to literally doing it herself (together with Hans Johannes who has been helping her since 2006), to the leap of faith it took to actually DO IT, she suddenly just brushed it all off and said: “Ag you know, in the end, timing is everything.” Erika Obermeyer has most certainly shown up - right on time.


Published On: 03/20/2019

Daléne Fourie

Twitter @DaleneFourie

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