My subject choices for high school included Physics, French and Accounting. An interesting combination. I studied Physics and French with winemaking in mind. While accounting was chosen because it appeared to be an easy A. Which it ended up being. Actually – it ended up being my highest subject.
Bear in mind that Accounting in high school does not resemble the accounting done in an actual accounting degree. If studying a four-year degree and entering into one of the most well-paid careers was limited to the book-keeping we learnt in high school then my roommate’s late study nights would never have happened. Coincidentally she’s on her way to becoming a chartered accountant.
But back to high school accounting – or as we should more aptly call it “Bookkeeping 101”. It was an easy subject. And I enjoyed it despite its notorious reputation and the formidable teachers. So why didn’t I study Accounting?
My sister did. She’s currently a very successful CA working in London making more money an intern could dream of – to put it into perspective she makes more in one month than I would working a full year off an intern’s salary. But let’s rewind. The year was 2012 and I was a grade eleven student while my sister was completing her first year of articles at a large accounting firm.
That was a disastrous year which was filled of late nights and crying. Lots and lots of crying. And that was when I decided that I would never put myself through that kind of stress and misery (to be fair at this point “harvest” was an abstract world and I did not realise the amount of crying, cellar foot rashes and manual labour that it would include…but I digress).
So, sworn off from ever looking at something remotely financial except for my own bank statements I set off into the world of wine-making. And it went well. There were a few hiccoughs along the way. Mainly Plant Pathology 314 and the escapade of my first harvest. But ultimately, I was happy with my choice.
Then I encountered SAWIS.
That sneaky little organisation (which yes – if very important for certifying wines and making sure every is above board and legal) reared its administrative head.
But it immediately took me back to matric. Sitting in three hour exams trying to balance assets and liabilities. Back to the days of crediting bank statements, debiting balance sheets and learning the theory of inflation.
Except now assets have been replaced by grapes and balance sheets have become tank records.
Now, I understand that record keeping is an integral part of the winemaking process. And in no way, am I advocating for the removal of this record keeping… but if we were to hold a bonfire and throw in all those documents I’d bring the marshmallows.
This recordkeeping during weighing only to be entered into the tank records which must correlate with the green book which then will be needed to fill in BG forms which then are used to fill in the pink book and then back to the BG forms and then to the other side of the pink book then back to the BG forms then back to the pink books (I could go on but I think you get the gist).
And this must all be done during the pandemonium of harvest. I think we’re asking too much.
Any winemaker (or assistant winemaker) will have their elbows deep in grape must and yeast, running after interns and fixing broken tanks. 14-hour work days are no big deal during a harvest and between all that there’s 15 different forms to be filled out? Ouch.
But apparently it’s not impossible. So that’s fine. We can carry on with the paperwork and BG forms. And we will work towards our IPW certification and apply for seals and we’ll survive (don’t even get me started on IPW. Lot numbers are the enemy in the cellar. But again, I digress).
But I want really want to know is how did my science-based degree entrenched with biology and chemistry become accounting?
I’ve spent four years studying the art of fermentation. And approximately 0.2% of that was spent learning the ins and outs of SAWIS. A task which will take up 20% of a person’s time (whether it be winemaker, assistant winemaker or intern). Possibly less if you’re the administrative wunderkind that I am.
So, here I am. About to enter the workforce, balling meter in one hand; pen, paper and calculator in the other. Ready to tackle the cellar and make quality wine. And then spend late nights filling out SAWIS forms so I that I can do recordkeeping during weighing only to be entered into the tank records which must correlate with the green book which then will be needed to fill in BG forms which then are used to fill in the pink book and then back to the BG forms and then to the other side of the pink book then back to the BG forms then back to the pink books (I could go on but I think you get the gist).