Debbie Thompson – Le Grand Domaine’s Secret Weapon

Traditionally a male-dominated industry, Le Grand Domaine winemaker, Debbie Thompson, has proven that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Appointed in early 2020 she has already racked up numerous awards for this boutique brand.

This is only the second wine farm Debbie has worked at, as for the past 20 years, prior to this appointment, she worked at Simonsig under the mentorship of Johan Malan. Being the first female appointed winemaker at the farm, she spent 18 years concentrating mostly on the red wine making, before taking up the post as cellarmaster. Her move to Le Grand Domaine was, as Debbie describes it, a 180 degree move. Moving from a big cellar to a smaller, new cellar came with its own set of challenges. Not forgetting that she had to move away from thinking solely red wine and open her mindset to other varietals. Oh yes, and then also being appointed right at the start of a global pandemic. The latter not what she had in mind, but these are challenges she accepted, tackled them head on and turned these into their own successes.

Debbie is quick to point out that she can’t take all of the credit. The benefit of a small cellar is that you have an incredibly hands on team, and that’s exactly what she has. Le Grand Domaine is a predominantly female run cellar, which includes three female and two male permanent staff members. These include Debbie’s assistant, Marthinique de Bruin who started her career at Thelema. Debbie is a firm believer that great wine can only come from great grapes, and she is very lucky to work with one of the top/best viticulturists, Deon Joubert.  Debbie’s motto in her professional life is to start from the bottom and work your way up, and you’re only as good as your team. 


Although still fairly new to the company Debbie has achieved so much in a short space of time. This includes bottling the estate’s first Cap Classique (due for release in 2022) as well as earning recognition from industry role players. The most recent being Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc for The Pledge Darling Sauvignon Blanc 2020, and the 2021 vintage secured a spot as a Top 20 finalist.

In addition, this recognition Le Grand Domaine was also recognized in the 2022 Platter’s by Diners Club South African Wine Guide for The Pledge Darling Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (4 ½ stars), The Pledge Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (4 ½ stars), Grand Vin Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (4 ½ stars), Grand Vin Selection Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2019 (4 stars) and Grand Vin Selection Rosé 2020 (4 stars). Stellar achievements indeed, and the confidence boost she and her team need to keep reaching for the stars. Not forgetting a Veritas Double Gold for the Pledge Our Darling Sauvignon Blanc 2020 as well as two Gold for the Pledge Our Darling Sauvignon Blanc 2021 and the Grand Vin Sauvignon Blanc 2021, respectively.

When Debbie isn’t in the cellar or vineyards you’ll find her enjoying the outdoors with her husband, Simon and their two beautiful daughters, Hannah and Jesse.

For more information on what you can expect to find from Debbie and her team, visit


Le Grand Domaine is based in the Devon Valley region in the heart of the Stellenbosch Winelands. Bernard Fontannaz, founder of Origin Vineyards, built up his reputation in the wine industry by establishing sought-after vineyards in South Africa, Argentina and Switzerland. He acquired Le Grand Domaine in 2016 to create a “South African Chateau”, growing only classic Bordeaux varietals.

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