As a person that received a degree from Stellenbosch University and stayed in the magnificent Boland town for three of my four years of study, I am ashamed to say that I only visited about four farms to attend wine tastings. There- I said it. You may now judge me for eternity. Or so I thought. Until I learned that the majority of students that study in Stellenbosch hardly ever visit wine farms for tastings or take part in wine tours. So yes, it does make me feel a bit better about myself that I am not the only student that never got around to doing it, but also it makes me a bit sad to think that so many people are surrounded by the beauty of the Winelands and they never get to taste and experience the region’s excellent wines.
After conducting a bit of research (i.e. asking my friends and house mates) I came across quite a number of reasons as to why students don’t visit wine farms or attend tastings. Firstly, there is the inevitable problem of a designated driver. No person (especially a university student) wants to drive all the way to a picturesque wine farm to sit there, gulping down glasses of water, while their friends are enjoying some of the finest wines that the country has to offer. Nobody wants to lose that bet, so it is safer just to stay home and enjoy an evening with Oom Tas.
Secondly- I can relate quite well with this- is the issue of time. To me it felt like I hardly had a moment to spare to take a power nap, never mind taking an afternoon off from assignments and preparing for yet another test or tutorial to visit a wine farm. The academic schedule simply didn’t account for the fact that there are so many wineries to visit in so little time.
For the average full-time student, money is probably the biggest obstacle to overcome. A R50 tasting fee can become quite a lot if it is near the end of the month and you’ve just had a fight with your parents about not being savvy enough with your money. That R50 could probably have bought you some 2-minute noodles to survive for another three days. Of course many students probably won’t even notice they are going three days without food.
All of these so-called “problems” have pretty simple solutions. For one, taxi and transport services to and from wine farms are now readily available at the click of a button on your cell phone. The business opportunity even exists for someone to create a taxi service exclusively for driving people or students around the wine farms of Stellenbosch. On the point of time, the university will simply have to allocate a time slot in each faculty’s schedule for weekly wine tastings. Okay, that may be a teeny bit far-fetched, but let’s be honest here dear students- you will have LOADS of time for wine tasting if you would step away from bingeing on series every now and again. We are only left with the predicament of finances. My suggestion is that wine farms and wineries in the region should have a special student discount. Even if it only is on some days of the week and not others. Or next time you have that late night fast-food craving, just remember all the amazing wines you could actually be tasting if you rather save that money.
Now the question remains, why should wineries be bothered with getting more students to visit their farms and taste their wines? Because they will eventually become the people that DRINK their wine and BUY their wine. Student culture is a part of the market that the wine industry has seemingly ignored or forgot about. There is a huge gap that can easily be filled if the industry as a whole would stop focussing on winning wine awards over the waters and rather get their own people to drink their beautiful wines. Try to think of innovative and creative ways of presenting and bottling wines that will capture the interest of the younger market. And get out there, mingle with the young crowd- hear what they want and what they have to offer. You might be surprised by the tricks an old dog can learn.