What inspired you to do the Cape Wine Master course?
It happened organically. The more I learnt about wine, the more I realised how intriguing, amazing, awesome and magnificent it can be. I began attending the different wine courses the Cape Wine Academy offered to become knowledgeable in wine. I eventually realised that the opportunity has presented itself for me to become a Cape Wine Master, and I thought that as I was already halfway there I might as well complete the journey.
What was the most challenging thing about doing the course?
The whole thing is rather tough! You write four theoretical exams: papers covering viticulture, winemaking, general knowledge and brandy and spirits. There’s no syllabus to follow – it’s all self-study and so you must compile your own study notes using resources from both the global and local wine industry.
The four practical tasting exams are broken down into natural wines, sweet and fortified wines, brandies and sparkling wines from around the world. All these are tasted blind; you need to score them according to quality, conclude the vintage, name the varietal(s) and the wine’s origin.
Then you must do a thesis and a tasting presentation to six very intimidating qualified Cape Wine Masters. The minimum pass rate for all the above is 60%, and you have only five years to complete the diploma.
As I progressed with the course, the need to focus on family also became more necessary – having an almost-teenager and the addition of two babies. So, between changing nappies, babies burping, having sleepless nights I still needed to taste wine and study – and, of course, not forget about work!
And the most memorable insight gained from it?
The more you know about wine you realise how little you actually know about it.
Your favourite varietal?
Choosing just one red one would be sacrilegious. I love Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Pinotage. My favourite white varietal is Chenin Blanc, which is such a diverse grape. It can be used to create fantastic wines such as our everyday quaffing Signature Chenin Blanc or our award-winning, premium 21 Gables Chenin Blanc.
What are the key lessons you’ve learnt during your time in the cellar?
The importance of patience, accuracy and attention to detail. It’s important to think holistically. Also you should work well in a team and never think that you are better than someone else. You can always learn something from someone else.
What are the wines you’re proudest of helping to have crafted at Spier?
Spier Signature Sauvignon Blanc and Spier Signature Chenin Blanc. What I love about our wines at all price points is that they always over-deliver on quality.