In Interview with a winemaker

Q.  Where do you originate ? 

“I was born in a small town in Northern KwaZulu Natal called Empangeni without a grapevine in sight !”

Q.  How did a smiley young girl from Zululand become a winemaker ?

“I enjoyed science at school and was lucky enough to secure a bursary  to study in the fields of Food Science, Food Technology, Food Nutrition and Winemaking. I had never tasted wine but the sponsors provided speakers  to talk about the subjects the bursary covered.  One was  Ntsiki  Biyela one of the first black female winemakers in the country. I took in every word she uttered including including the various challenges like the languages used in the various  teaching institutions.  I was so fired up by Ntsiki it just had to be wine !”

Q. So where did you go to study ? 

“I went to Elsenburg College outside Stellenbosch and obtained my B Agric degree in Cellar Technology. This covered Oenology and Viticulture.

Q. How did you find the massive change in your life ?

“ To be honest after three months I packed up for the Easter Holiday and went home with no intention of returning. I was 17 years old , away from  home in a totally foreign environment.   Then my mother talked me into getting back onto the bus to Stellenbosch. She told me not to squander the opportunity. So I returned.”

Q. How difficult did you find it ?

“It was tough. Although the textbooks were in English the lectures were mostly in Afrikaans. The breakthrough came when I realized I could ask my professors and fellow-students for support. It took a lot of guts, focus and discipline to familiarise myself  with something so removed from my own experience until then. I had had absolutely no wine background when growing up.”

Q. What then happened ? 

“I graduated in 2007 and was taken into the Cape Winemakers’ Guild Protégé programme. Amongst  my mentors were Philip Costandius, David Finlayson, Pieter “Bubbles” Ferreira and Irene Waller. After completing that programme I joined the Brgkelder under Andrea Freeborough and then appointed to the Zonnebloem  team in 2013. Under Deon Boshoff I am learning  even more. I am with just a  quality-focussed , thriving brand which is an incredible privilege.”

Q. With such a big brand, what chance do you get to be involved with the vineyard ?

“We have full time top class viticulturists who get us involved  out in the vineyards monitoring ripeness and quality and deciding when to pick.”

Q. Do you have any variety you prefer to work with ?

With that ever present smile “I am an all-rounder. I believe every variety has its own unique characteristics which makes harvesting fascinating but having said that I can work with Shiraz any time of the day.

Q. Have you been influenced by any particular winemaker ?

“When I was in my Protégé years Pieter Ferreira played a big role in my development and I got to appreciate how the terroir of the Robertson Valley was expressed in his MCC wines.”

Q. What would you consider your greatest achievement as a winemaker in such a short career ? 

“Wow, when I first made my own wine and the wine sold at the CWG Auction to generate funds for future protégés.”

Q. What “secrets” have you “developed” ? 

“ No secrets but listening to nature and let it make the wine for you.”

Q. How important is modern winemaking equipment to you ? 

“Modern technology improves efficiency especially when you have a big crop but equipment must not dictate your skill.”

Q. What do you think when you look back and then think of the future ? 

“When I started I had no wine knowledge at all now I am very proud to be working for an Historic brand. I know the sky is the limit and my passion for winemaking  motivates me to make good quality wines into the future.”

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