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Q&A: Adi Badenhorst, Swartland, South Africa

 	 L–R: The winery's Secateurs range; Adi cooking up a storm; the vineyard in Swartland
© Natural Light/Badenhorst Wines | L–R: The winery's Secateurs range; Adi cooking up a storm; the vineyard in Swartland
One of South Africa's biggest wine personalities, Adi Badenhorst lives in the Swartland with his wife and two children, a dog as big as a bear, peacocks and chickens. He specializes in Rhône blends made from gnarly old vines.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

I turned 40 on the 18th of September – so I was born in 1972 – and I had a bit of a party a few weeks before that. And when I looked in the mirror, I said: 'F***, you are looking good, man – damn fine!'

Where did you grow up?

I haven’t thrown up in a long time. Not since I was 14.

What drew you to wine?

I was born into wine. My grandfather and my father were both viticulturists, so I grew up on wine farms and started making wine when I was at school. Made some really dodgy wines – a bit of pinot grigio and a bit of cab.

Then, I went to Stellenbosch University to study something. Three gloriously blurry years went by before I went to agricultural college – a pseudo-academic institution where you do bucket chemistry and a bit of winemaking – and then I could get a semi-proper job. I never got a degree; I’m a bit of a cerebral dwarf when it comes to that sort of stuff.

What’s your view of scoring wines by points?

I don’t know. I’m no good at maths so it doesn’t work for me. If it’s more than 10, I get a bit nervous!

Who are your heroes?

When I was small, I used to have heroes like Jean-Pierre Rives – he used to play flank for France in the '80s. The guy was hard as nails. He’s an artist now because he’s too old to play rugby. Oh, and [former S.A. prime minister] Jan Christiaan Smuts – he’s from our area. I admire people who are original and can think for themselves.

My children will only go to school when they are 14 because they have to learn to think for themselves. No, not really. They are at a Christian private school in Malmesbury. (He then breaks into one of his children's school songs about Jesus and fish.)

Q&A: Adi Badenhorst, Swartland, South Africa
© Natural Light Photography

What do you most like in a wine?

Just that it quenches your thirst. Wine that you can drink, and that can last and change in the glass. You must feel nourished after drinking wine. You mustn’t feel confused by wine. There are great wines out there that are complex but I don’t think our wines are hard to understand. They are transparent, in a way.

What do you least like in a wine?

High alcohol and sweetness.

What do you drink on a school night?

Wines made by my father-in-law. He’s at Vriesenhof and he’s probably one of the most dynamic 65-year-olds in the world. He’s making really great grenache and pinot noir. We drink our own wines, of course, and our neighbors' wines.

Where would you like to be buried?

I don’t want to be buried. I want to be burned in a pyre of small, new-oak Bordeaux barrels and they can serve f***ing coffee pinotage at the service. The ashes will stay in the urn on the mantelpiece and my children must look at it every day. They are going to take Dad out to look at the view, and put me on the dash of the car when they go on holiday. I’m going to be the best-traveled dead person.

Any regrets?

That I didn’t move to Paris and wash dishes for six months in a dingy restaurant, and live in Montmartre in a skanky apartment. To have that sense, not of complete abandonment, but just to be on the bones of your arse for a while.

What’s been your best experience in the wine industry?

It’s being who and where I am now. Life is great.

What brings you the greatest happiness?

It’s being on the farm with the family and the kids, that’s the nicest thing.

What would make the world a better place?

If we had more bands like Audience, the greatest rock band ever, or Split Enz; if people had appreciated Rodriguez back in the '70s.

Seriously, we must not forget that we are still barbaric in what we do to each other. We live in nice places and drink nice wine, but the world is still a barbaric place.

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