After following his passion for wine and abandoning a legal career, Chris Williams learned his craft by working with Giorgio Dall Cia at Meerlust Estate in South Africa, then Michel Rolland in Pomerol and then went back to Meerlust. In 2001 with his friend James Reid, he established The Foundry alongside his day job. Just a short eighteen years later started devoting his entire time to this project. 

We asked Chris for his half case of life changing wines....

Wine 1 - Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny, Vieilles Vignes 1985

I first tasted this in around 1991, when I was still studying law but already very interested in wine. It was a transcendental experience. Although youthful, the wine was so hauntingly beautiful, sensual and evocative that I was literally struck dumb by the experience.

It kicked off my life- long love of Pinot Noir and red Burgundy. It was the first wine that I tasted that was clearly a cultural artefact, a work of art a product of the earth and something that could be imbibed, physically. This is one of the great and slightly tragic things about wine, how they are temporal, evanescent and ever changing, eventually decaying. I suppose in some ways that is like people, they have their time, and then they are gone.

Wine 2 - Château Ducru-Beaucaillou Saint Julien 1982

This was shared with me in Scotland by my business partner in The Foundry, James Reid, in 1996. Absolutely classic claret, relatively light (compared to modern wines), but with incredible flavour, beautiful almost gothic structure with powdery, almost talc like tannins.

The wines was always my archetypal model for the Meerlust Rubicon over the years. It was a revelation that a wine could be so compact, light on its feet, yet so muscular, lithe and supple.

Wine 3 - Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage 1991 (from bottle) and 1993 and 1994 from barrel.

Tasted at the Domaine with my winemaking school classmates in November 1994 in the barrel cellar in Mauves, with a young Jean-Louis Chave and father Gerard looking on. It was the time of the transition between the two vignerons but Gerards influence was clear in these three wines.

Coming from South Africa, where we were used to ripe, earthy, almost animal-like Shiraz, this was my first exposure to great Syrah - perfumed, bright, fresh, lifted aromas of garigue, white pepper and crispy bacon. Again, I was stunned by the lightness and dexterity of the wines,

It was so compact and vivacious carrying no excess weight with so flavourful and gratifying. This wine was the inspiration to start The Foundry in 2001 and pursue Syrah, rather than Shiraz.

Wine 4 - Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva 1965

Tasted with my wine group in South Africa, including Richard Kelley MW, I cannot remember exactly when (probably around 2005). Tasted blind by the group but I knew what it was as I was presenting. The wine was still so incredibly youthful, there was something so familiar but also so strange, almost exotic about it.

Lashings of very pure red berry fruit, incense, sandalwood, Pata Negra ham, very umami on the nose as well and constantly developing in the glass, evolving. You couldn’t actually keep up with how it changed, it was elusive but deeply satisfying. In a moment, the wine had disappeared from my glass, leaving refreshed, inspired and humbled.

Wine 5 - Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 1978 Stellenbosch

Tasted many times over my years at Meerlust, never a disappointing bottle. Vinified by my predecessor, mentor and tormentor, Giorgio Dalla Cia! Again, a light wine (11.8 % alc by vol), but always jam packed with lovely cassis, graphite, freshly tilled earth and smoky meat aromas. Ultra-fine tannins, great energy and length in spite of the age.

Wine 6 - Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 1986

Tasted many times over the years (this wine just keeps on living…), but initially when I first became interested in wines in 1988 and got a holiday job at Klein Constantia. Vinified by the wonderfully kind and humorous and sadly late Ross Gower, another mentor.

A conundrum of a wine, made from youngish vines. It was so expressive in youth-typical Sauvignon aromas of gooseberry, tinned peas, brambles and granadilla (Ross worked in New Zealand before his time at Klein Constantia). It was this wine which established Constantia as a great Sauvignon Blanc terroir. Tasted over the years the wine evolved, developed and matured, but always remained fresh, linear, with laser like focus and precision and an incredible stony minerality.

Without doubt one of the greatest wines ever from South Africa.

If I could share only one of these with three people, real or fictional, living or dead who would they be?

Leonardo Da Vinci, accompanied by a translator. My absolute hero. The true renaissance man, genius doesn’t begin to describe him. By all accounts, also a kind, generous and amusing dinner guest. Yo-yo Ma, Cellist, but only on condition that he agreed to perform Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 Malala Yousafzai, Education advocate, assassination survivor and Nobel laureate. The embodiment of courage.

We stock a range of Chris' fabulous wines, click here to see them