Hand-crafted, organically farmed Cabernet
Self-taught cellarmaster Jose Conde’s first attempt at winemaking was in 2000, and he chose to experiment with his favorite grape, Cabernet Sauvignon. As luck would have it, his father-in-law Hans Schroder farmed arguably the best Cabernet grapes in the region. Made with basic equipment and using traditional methods, the maiden vintage yielded just 2400 bottles, but against the odds and to everybody’s surprise the wine went on to win 5-stars in the Platters Wine Guide, rated 92 points in Wine Spectator, and was selected by UK wine writer Oz Clarke as one of the Top 20 Wines of the Year.
The origin of the winery is serendipitous, but the story of the founding family is more complex. South African patriarch Hans Schroder (b. 1938) was raised in Stellenbosch but spent much of his adult life abroad. In the 1960’s while attending university in Japan, Hans met and married fellow student Midori Maruyama. At the time, their marriage contravened the apartheid regime’s Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act so the young couple settled in Japan. They remained in Tokyo for the next 30 years where they raised three daughters—Marie, Lisa, and Miki. Fast forward to the late 1980’s — the end of apartheid was inching closer and Nelson Mandela’s release was imminent. Hans and Midori decided it was time to return to South Africa and be part of the positive change. They purchased the Oude Nektar farm in 1989 and focused on growing grapes.
Eldest daughter Marie and her American husband Jose also relocated to South Africa to join the family. Jose, a graphic designer by trade, originally intended to open a studio in Cape Town but plans were thwarted when he discovered his passion for wine. With an artisan’s attention to detail and a purist’s approach in the cellar, Jose slowly developed the wines to where they are today. He continues to design all his own wine labels.
Stark-Condé is a union of family names. “Stark” plays tribute to Hans’ mother Franziska Stark. Best remembered for her fierce independence and insatiable curiosity, she was the first of the family to settle in Stellenbosch. “Conde” is a salute to Jose’s father, a Cuban émigré to the United States. Jose attributes his love of craft and work ethic to his father, who left Cuba as a young man to embrace challenge in a new country.
Jonkershoek Valley is a pristine valley uniquely situated for growing Cabernet. With its high elevation terrain, ample winter rainfalls, and the cleansing Southeaster breeze that blows through the valley, this area has perfect conditions for the production of premium grapes. The Stark-Condé vineyards are farmed organically and 80% of the estate remains rugged virgin terrain. The flora mirrors the rich biodiversity of the neighboring Jonkershoek National Park, which has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site for its fynbos biome.
Winemaking is kept as simple and natural as possible. The pressed juice is fermented with natural yeasts in open-top tanks, with manual punchdowns around the clock. The red wines are then aged up to 22 months in French oak barrels and are bottled in most instances without fining or filtration. With a limited production of just over 8000 cases, Stark-Condé remains committed to producing hand-crafted premium wines.
Today, the dedicated team at Stark-Condé includes vineyard manager Andrew Klink who has spearheaded the conversion to organics, and winemaker Rüdger van Wyk who creates fine wines using minimal intervention in the cellar. With vineyards ranging in elevation from 150m (490 ft) to 600m (just under 2000 ft) above sea level, the estate offers wines of distinct character and a sense of place.
José Conde grew up in the small town of Independence, Missouri. As a self-taught winemaker, José has quietly made his mark with multiple award-winning Cabernets. With a steely resolve and a craftsman’s work ethic, José has championed his belief that Stellenbosch Cabernets are on par with the top wines of the world.
Rüdger van Wyk
Rüdger van Wyk’s shooting star moment began when he won Diner’s Club Best Young Winemaker’s Award in 2018 and his momemtum has not slowed. From his early exposure as a Cape Winemaker’s Guild Protégé to his life-changing harvest in Burgundy, Rüdger’s energy and drive for excellence continues to inspire his peers and ensure that Stark-Condé remains on the forefront of premium South African wineries.
Andrew Klink understands the vineyards at Stark-Condé like no other. With a hawk’s eye, he has been tending to the vines for over 25 years and and continuously motivates for improvements. Andrew has spearheaded Stark-Condé’s journey to organic conversion. Thanks to the hard work of him and his team, the vineyards received official organic certification in 2021.