I spoke to those who had already become wine experts working for wineries and listened to their stories of becoming experts.
The first person who I spoke with was Marlize Jacobs from Vergenoegd.
Marlize was born in Winburg, a small town in the Free State province of South Africa. She told me she didn’t have an interest in wine at all initially. Her interest for wine grew shen she began working in restaurants. She took a course at the Cape Wine Academy and after that she went to Elsenburg College. It took her three years of studying to become her idea of a wine expert. While we were talking, I realised that although there is a chance to reach my goal, I have a long, long way to go. Marlize gave me a tip for all novice wine drinkers, saying when you want to learn about wine, it’s a great idea to buy a couple of wines, invite your friends over and do a tasting together. This way you can share your experiences with your friends.
My second visit was with Carol Agus from Meerlust Wine Estate.
Carol is one of the tasting ladies at Meerlust and she gave me a nudge in the right direction with her impressive story. When I said to her that I was there to write an article for novice wine drinkers, she told me her own story of how she became a wine expert. She began as a cleaning lady at a wine farm. She too wasn’t interested in wine initially. Day after day she’d take all the empty wine glasses off tables and clean everything up. Till one day, she came back from four months of leave and started thinking about her future. She thought: “What do I want in the future? I don’t want to be a cleaning lady for the rest of my life.” She started to smell the wines as she cleared the glasses and began asking questions about the wines and their smells. Still, she wasn’t that interested in wines, but she had a drive to learn more, so she started attending wine courses. It motivated her and after a few courses she started to recognize the wine scents. One of the things I remember Carol telling me vividly was: “I got to pick up the smells of fruit in the supermarket. Normally I won’t smell a lychee, but once I started to smell other fruits… I started to smell them in the wines.” As a wine novice I think it’s a great and fun way to learn about the smells in wine. It worked for Carol, so I hope it will work for me or you perhaps. Carol’s favourite wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon, a heavy wine, but when she started drinking it she fell in love with the taste! She’s worked at Meerlust for two and a half years now. I loved her story and it gave me hope for my long journey to become a wine expert. After my visit to Meerlust, my taste buds needed some rest.
The next day I visited Peter Falke Wines. This was my last chance to sponge as much wine knowledge as I could in South Africa, at least for now... A clear perk of becoming a wine expert is visiting all the different wineries. You get to see the most beautiful landscapes at some wine estates. When I arrived at Peter Falke Wines and got out of my car, I instantly felt the incredibly peaceful ambiance of the place. When I came to their tasting room, I explained my situation and that I wanted to taste wines for wine novices. Their response was incredible! The host declared that their wines are for everyone! And she was right. I tasted two very lovely wines: the Blanc de Noir and the Pinot Noir. I loved both, but for me as a novice I really enjoyed the Blanc de Noir. I tried to train my palette in recognizing some smells or tastes, but that is something I struggle with. Recognizing the smell of some red fruits in the wines gave me some hope, we all have to start somewhere after all.
During my visit, I also managed to speak with Alexa Pretorius the PR manager of Peter Falke Wines. Of course, I asked her the same very important question: “How did your love of wine start?” You might think it sounds like I’m looking for confirmation, but I really want to know if there is a chance for a Dutch girl to become a wine expert. Alexa told me she’d always loved wine and she started to drink some sweet wines when she was younger until she graduated to her favourite wine, Pinot Noir: “I can drink this wine every day. You can drink it when it is cold and you can drink it when it is warm.” She studied Hospitality Management with a specialisation in wine marketing and she too studied at the Cape Wine Academy. Her final tip was: “Mix it up, try several wines and taste it with some food.”
With an empty glass and a full notepad, it is time for me to leave Cape Town… I had hoped that I could continue to tell you about my long journey to becoming a wine expert, but unfortunately I must return home. Don’t fear though, you will be sure to hear from me soon enough. You might even see me on the cover of a famous wine magazine. Okay Brigitte, don’t dream too big just yet…