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Family companies are the beating heart and soul of the wine business. Long may they continue. – Tim Atkin, Master of Wine and award-winning wine writer

When in 2002 Jean-Claude (JC) and Carolyn Martin took up the challenge of establishing a winery in a remote corner of the Walker Bay Wine Region, they did so with the courage of their conviction. The 35 hectares of undulating land on the lofty Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge had never been planted to vines before, but recognising the vast potential, they set out with tenacity and determination to transform it into a model wine farm within only five years. No easy feat, but then both JC and Carolyn (née Finlayson) come from wine pioneering stock spanning at least three generations and two continents.

2004: The hard-working Martin family during their last harvest at Grillette, Switzerland.

Let’s start with the Swiss-born JC Martin who was all of 14 years old when he decided to become a winemaker and at 20, realised this dream! The inspiration came from his grandfather, Jules Martin, who painstakingly established the family winery on the steep banks of Lake Bienne in Switzerland way back in 1935. In 1970, JC’s uncle Alfred took over the business and in 1980, the young JC worked his first full harvest.

Having completed his viticultural studies at the Swiss Federal Research Station for Fruit Growing, Viticulture and Horticulture in Wädenswil, JC went on to qualify as a winemaker at the Swiss Federal School of Changins in 1995. These qualifications provided what he still regards to be a firm an ideal grounding – “viticulture first, then winemaking”.

1996: JC Martin’s grandmother Iba Martin taking a well-deserved lunch break during harvest.

The next year saw the inventive JC making his first wines in a converted garage in Le Landeron. The equipment was basic but he implemented modern techniques and the results in the form of his greatly sought-after Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay were impressive. This was the start of an illustrious career which today finds expression in the highly acclaimed Creation wine range. general manager and winemaker 

In 1998 JC joined the historic winery of Grillette in the Winelands of Neuchâtel. The many innovations he introduced here included state-of-the-art equipment and a new barrel cellar. He subsequently owned a substantial stake in this famous winery which he sold after moving to South Africa.  

1996: JC Martin (right) making his first wines in a converted garage in Le Landeron, Switzerland. Left is his father, Hansruedi Martin and in the centre a friend, Rolf Obrecht

Now on to the Finlayson clan. Their wine journey in South Africa began in 1947 when well-known Cape Town pathologist Maurice Finlayson (originally from Inverness in Scotland) purchased the farm Hartenberg in the Stellenbosch region. It was here that his son (Carolyn’s father) Walter, learnt the art of winemaking. And it was also here that Carolyn was born – in a red Ford Anglia, at the farm gates! Quite used to delivering calves, Dad Walter apparently took the role of ‘midwife’ in his stride.

Carolyn fondly recalls what it was like growing up on a wine farm, and she was very much involved in the industry from a young age. “I did my first tasting when five years old,” she laughs. “My grandmother Eleanor and I would cook up a storm, and this is where I learnt all about pairing food to wine. It is something that takes a lifetime of practice and passion.” This is evident at Creation, where wine and food wine pairing is central to the tasting room experience as well as the ethos of the brand.


2004: Celebrating the harvest in traditional Swiss fashion with brunch in the vineyards.

In 1975 the family moved to the Blaauwklippen Wine Estate where Walter was appointed winemaker and where he played an important role in putting the estate on the wine map. Seven years later he bought Glen Carlou in the Paarl Valley where his son, David joined him as winemaker in 1994. Working together, the Finlaysons established Glen Carlou as one of the country’s top wine producers. Glen Carlou was sold to the Hess Group in 2004 and David went on to establish the successful Edgebaston winery in the Stellenbosch region.

But the roots of the South African wine industry are even more deeply embedded in the Finlayson clan … Among the latter-day pioneers is also Carolyn’s uncle, Peter Finlayson, who started his winemaking career at the historic Boschendal Estate, proceeded to set up the first winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde in 1980 and now is the general manager and winemaker of the boutique Bouchard Finlayson in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

2006: A proud Martin family during their first vintage at Creation.

So, although Creation is a first-generation family business, it is backed by three winemaking generations, each with a deep commitment to harnessing their land to its full potential. And the fourth is waiting in the wings … Enter Emma Martin (daughter of JC and Carolyn) who at the age of 11 made her début on the world wine stage with a single barrel Pinot Noir made under the watchful eye of her talented father.

 With the release of this remarkable wine earlier this year Emma ‘officially’ became the fourth-generation winemaker on her Swiss father’s side and the third-generation on her South African mother’s side. cellar master 

Small wonder the wine reflects the best of both Old and New Worlds!   

2009: Four winemakers JC Martin, Peter Finlayson, David Finlayson and Walter Finlayson with another one in the making, Emma Martin at Walter Finlayson’s 70th birthday at Creation.

2011: Emma, Carolyn, Glenn and JC Martin enjoying ‘family time’ on the farm.

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