L’Avenir Lives: Leigh Diedericks
From a maintenance man to the main man. That is the inspiring story of L’Avenir’s farm manager and community leader, Leigh Diedericks. Our L’Avenir Hands-on Garden is a tangible example of Leigh’s leadership and legacy at L’Avenir.
Curiosity has been the golden thread in Leigh’s career at the Estate. He started working as the Estate’s maintenance man in 1993, one year after the farm was officially named L’Avenir by former owner, Marc Wiehe. Those were the early days of the legendary Francois Naude’s tenure as winemaker and the farm’s status as a leading Pinotage producer happened through a small and agile team.
“We were Jacks of all trades, but I quickly became fascinated by the vine – to the extent that it became a distraction from my real job of maintenance!” laughs Leigh. He gradually shifted to the vineyard team and was promoted to farm manager in 2009.
“Taking care of a vineyard reminds me of caring for a baby. It’s a relationship, but the baby asks questions, without using words. You have to be observant and creative. I lie awake at night thinking about vines and even talk to the vineyards!” quips Leigh. Leigh’s curiosity has perfectly complemented winemaker Dirk Coetzee’s inherently innovative approach to winemaking, with new trials both in the vineyard and cellar adding to the excitement of harvest time.
Leigh’s influence however spans far further. At L’Avenir and its neighbouring communities, Leigh is a mentor to many. The L’Avenir Hands-on Garden is testimony to both his passion for viticulture and ambition to inspire the next generation through instilling an interest in viticulture. Through Leigh’s vision and leadership, a barren plot of land next to the L’Avenir cellar, which was not suitable for conventional vineyards, was transformed into an inspirational hydroponic vineyard and garden.
The L’Avenir Hands-on Garden is utilised by L’Avenir’s Pebbles Afterschool Care Centre to provide the learners the opportunity to gain an understanding of vineyard management. “The garden has not only resulted in a better understanding of viticulture, but the children now have greater appreciation for the important work that their parents are involved in. The garden is a symbolic integration of the community and the workers at L’Avenir Wine Estate and an opportunity to leave a legacy for our next generation,” says Leigh.
Leigh’s legacy is properly entrenched in L’Avenir’s soil, community and vineyards, but the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a cause for great concern to him. “I think my grey hair doubled when we were initially told that we are not allowed to finish the 2020 harvest. That’s like asking me to abandon my child! Luckily we were eventually allowed to complete the harvest, but at L’Avenir we are a team and especially my colleagues at the L’Avenir Country Lodge and Cellardoor still cannot do the work that they love. We can only hope that sanity prevails and that we see some leadership to sustain jobs and livelihoods,” comments Leigh.
– Dr Edo Heyns