Why are you passionate about wine?
Wine is a living element and constantly evolving and changing, just like we do. With all the different aroma profiles wine offer, each combination is unique, just like a finger print. Aromas trigger memories from past experiences, or create new adventures. Wine we can share with someone even if we do not speak the same language.
Where did this passion first develop?
The father of my best friend in primary school was a winemaker and we use to play hide and seek in his cellar. The smell of fermenting Chenin Blanc grapes is a flavour that sparks a lot of happy memories. Growing up in Paarl, surrounded by vineyards and grapes, also made me want to focus on the art of winemaking.
What did you study?
As I really wanted to make wine before I “grew up”, I completed a National Diploma in Agriculture with vine and wine and my subjects for focus. I then did the three-month Magister Sommelier course at the WorldSom Academy in Bordeaux, France, learning about the different styles of wine from around the world. I got to meet and visit great people and places to help me expand my knowledge and understanding of wine of the world.
I’ve also done the University of Cape Town’s wine business management, which is fantastic as it helps you understand the business side of wine.
I am currently busy with WSET (Wine and Spirits Educational Trust) Level Four diploma.
I’ve always wanted to become a wine maker, but I noticed that winemakers are not all sales people and often find it challenging to market their own wine. This was the reason why I studied to be a Sommelier – to focus on the sales and food and wine combination. These skills will assist me one day when my own wine makes its way out of the cellar.
Tell us a bit about your working life before joining Spier?
I started in at wine lab in the Cape Winelands in order to be able to understand and analyse wine chemically. After this I moved to Graham Beck to get a little closer to the cellar. Here I witnessed how a wine’s character and chemicals develops and changes and get a better understanding of how it is crafted.
My four-year stint at Singita Sabi Sand was where my sommelier journey began: I was responsible for picking the right wine for each occasion and with my guests’ preferences in mind. Here I learned that serving guests is a privilege – service excellence is something we at Spier strive for every day.
What are the ways in which you continue to deepen and expand the wine knowledge of yourself and your team?
I’m always learning, reading about the wines of the world. I join tastings at international wine merchants like Winecellar and I have a tasting group that gets together once every 2 weeks or so to discuss different wine styles and wine characters. I sneak off to the Spier wine cellar and taste through the barrels and tanks with the winemakers in order to understand our long-term focus as a wine farm.
I want my whole team to be qualified with at least a WSET Level Two. Our senior wine educators are expanding their knowledge and challenging themselves with Level Three. These are internationally recognised qualifications that enable them to expand their knowledge not just locally, but internationally too.
We often go to different regions so my team can see why some varietals grow best in specific places. Most Wednesday mornings are set aside to taste different styles of wine or different varietals that fall into the same palate weight and style.
What are your favourite varietals generally, and favourite Spier wines in particular?
My favourite varietals are Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to drink on any occasion. I am extremely fond of Champagne and South African Méthode Cap Classique as well.
I enjoy Spier’s deep and dark wines like the These Waves Merlot and Private Collection Cabernet Sauvignon. These Waves Merlot was grown to be a Merlot and not a blending partner as most Merlots are. The wine offers very similar aromas to a Cabernet Sauvignon, but with a well-integrated and ripe tannin structure.
Which wines in particular from Spier should buyers be looking out for?
Spier has wine for all preferences and guests should come to experience a wine tasting in order to try our different ranges and discover what suits them best. The varietal-focused Spier Signature range are easy drinking, focused and crisp. They’re not trying to be anything other than what the grapes best represent.
Our Creative Block range of blended wines are more complex. This is where the artistry in the cellar really comes to the fore. Each varietal is blended together in order to create a different experience and complete a different role within the blend. One varietal will fill in the mid-palate, create longevity in the wine or acts as the backbone of the wine. Just like a melody needs different chords.
I see our Tasting Room team as a South African blend. Each person brings something different and unique to create the end results of enjoyment to our guests.
The 21 Gables range is definitely something to buy to keep for a while. These single varietal wines (which include a Pinotage and a Chenin Blanc) are big and bold – made with the future in mind. As the years progress, each wine’s primary characters will evolve to reveal beautifully matured aromas.