Before I begin, let’s get the formalities out of the way; I am a final year Elsenburg Oenology and Viticulture student living in an apartment in the middle of the Stellenbosch wine route, with dreams of becoming a wine maker to be reckoned with.
Being able to balance out my social life between old friends and the ones who have sweated it out during the harvest is something I have been trying to figure out since the epiphany of selling my soul to the wine industry.
Friends you have made over the years in school and studies live a completely different world to the ones who have seen you at your ugliest in the cellar. These two groups have totally different views on certain aspects of life, including how to be a ‘student’! Those friends who have chosen other paths of life such as B-comm. or marketing are the ones who hide the 5 litre bag-in-box as you approach the flat (if the shoe fits) and randomly pose questions such as “are you a winemaker yet?” or “so, when can I have some of your wine?”. For them it’s more of a ‘lets have a beer instead type of vibe’ and not having to analyse a ‘R20 bargain red blend bottle’, excavated from the dark pit of a student’s cupboard, much to the entertainment of the masses. Oh, and of course we are expected to rock up at a braai with a box of the Platter’s finest because that’s what we do! I don’t want to indulge myself by going into the scenario of wine tastings in the beautiful Stellenbosch with a mixture of first year and art students; that’s a different story for another day.
The other side of life entails the eager new world winemaking students that have found common ground to socialize in. Our lives consist of missioning to the Elsenburg cellar before the sun comes up and leaving well after it has become cool and dark. The time spent behind the aspiration machine and in international tastings is more than the time spent by a first year on Facebook and Instagram combined. We create timeless bonds with those we share these experiences with. We end up merging our work and social lives together, as it seems much less complicated to have a night out with the folk we see every day, as opposed to phoning up old mates and making plans. The decision of going out has shifted from choosing an establishment where brandy and coke specials are cheap to where corkage isn’t more than the amount lingering in the ‘end of month’ student’s bank account. In the event of a get together of winemakers and other young professionals, conversations quickly emerge around the wine table with enthusiasts and Oenologists alike having a debacle on the effect of the pH on the anthocyanins of a 2009 Pino. You soon realize that you are giving a full blown chemistry lecture to the two girls from apartment 5A.
There are sweet spots, if you could call it that, where a balance occurs between the two worlds. This is the space where mindless chilling occurs and we refrain from flattery. We grab a couple of brews from the freezer, climb on the roof and just take it all in with whoever was in the apartment. As winemakers we know that in chemistry it is essential to maintain an equilibrium. What makes us the exception?