As I hail from a small town called Parow in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town, most of my friends and my entire family was quite surprised- or should I rather say shocked- to hear that I wanted to pursue a career in wine. Their reactions were completely justified, as I have never before been an avid wine drinker (well, I was only 17 at the time I made the decision) and I had no farming background or exposure whatsoever. But driving past the vineyards in Durbanville, it almost had a romantic feel to it and so my love affair with vines began.
To be brutally honest, I attended my first wine tasting only after I had been accepted to study viticulture and oenology at Stellenbosch University. Up until that day my favourite wines were natural sweet whites and rosés that didn’t price over R40 a bottle. My parents have always loved wine so I grew up with it in the house, but I never seemed to possess the acquired taste needed to drink dry wine. I will never forget that first tasting. My parents and I had decided to try a wine and cheese pairing at a wine farm in Paarl. It was early January and the heat was beating down as it only can in the blazing Boland town. I was not very excited about drinking these warm, dry red wines on a day like this. I did, however, realise that I have to start somewhere if I was going to try and make a career out of this. So we sat down in the private tasting room (thank goodness for air-conditioning!) and although I didn’t realise it at the time, prepared for a tasting that would change my life forever. It was the most amazing experience I had ever had! I was intrigued by everything the tasting room assistant said and I had all these questions to ask. Come to think of it, it might have just been the wine talking- a full eight tasting glasses for a first time tasting is not a joke (I was obviously still confused by the spittoon). But the sheer passion she had for the wines and the farm was infectious and she ignited a flame in me that I still carry with me to this day.
Pruning my first vines during the winter of my first year at varsity also proved to be a landmark moment on my professional journey. Putting theory into practice wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, thus it certainly wasn’t the best pruning skills my lecturers have seen. Be that as it may, just knowing that whatever I do to this vine today will have an impact on the next two harvests was quite a surreal, yet scary feeling. It was exciting and thrilling to be part of this natural occurring cycle. I knew from that point onwards that my place was in the vineyard- with this incredible species of plant, with its one of a kind adaptivity and most luscious bearing fruits. I should also add that it was during my first year that I stumbled upon the great deal of courage and inspiration that presents itself after a few glasses of Pinot. Many a report was written with the trusty help of a cold bottle I found in the fridge (not to mention the ice cold MCC assisting me while I am writing this blog.)
But it was only during my second year that I finally realised and accepted that winemaking wasn’t for me and I discovered my true passion for soil science. The symbiotic interaction between the soil and vine roots fascinated me and the impact that it has on the end product completely changed the way I perceived my bottle of Pinot. The abundance of different opportunities in the industry made me grateful that I found my niche and I could still contribute to an industry that I came to know and love.
So maybe I didn’t choose to become a winemaker or to be directly involved with the processing, marketing and selling of wines, but I was lucky enough to stumble upon something that I really love and have an absolute passion. The best part is that I can do my job while drinking a glass of wine without being frowned upon. #careergoals