November 2018 marks another instalment of The Flying Winemaker's Crash Course in Wine and since I’ll be your instructor, I thought I’d share how I got into wine, why it has become a passion, as well as share some insights about the benefits of furthering one’s wine education.
My wine journey began at the tender age of 16. As both my parents worked, my mother insisted I find a job during summer vacations, more to keep me out of trouble, than anything else. I was fortunate enough to have a sister (a well-regarded wine professional herself) who managed to get me a job at Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch. I was essentially the do-everything guy, carrying boxes, packing shelves, washing glasses in the tasting room, offloading delivery trucks and sometimes the “tea lady” to the more senior staff.
So where does wine come in, you might ask? One day, I was thrown into the deep end. As they were short-staffed in the tasting room, I was told to help out. I thought my manager was mad—I knew absolutely nothing about wine! Nonetheless, I did what I was told and haven’t looked back since. I was asked so many weird and wonderful questions that I didn’t have the answers to. Rather than discourage me, that experience opened up doors to a whole new world of wine and I started investigating and reading more about this oh so interesting grape drink. The more I read, the more I wanted to know and the more I was smitten.
"The Spier tasting room which opened many doors to the wonderful world of wine for me"
I started working full time in the tasting room after I graduated from high school and took some wine courses through The Cape Wine Academy and WSET. My journey didn’t stop there, though. I was given the opportunity to help with the harvest and had such a fantastic time getting my hands dirty during winemaking seasons that I decided to complete my Senior Cellar Operations level 2 at Elsenburg Agricultural College.
Now, armed with even more knowledge, I was eager to jump straight back into the tasting room to share my harvest stories and newfound knowledge of wine. The people aspect of wine is one of the best parts of my wine journey. I was also lucky to represent Spier at various wine trade shows across South Africa, always enjoying talking about wine, learning and sharing my knowledge.
"Getting my hands dirty during harvest was always fun"
Seven years at Spier Wine Farm taught me a lot, but one fateful day in 2014 put me on a new path. The inaugural Flying Winemaker Tour was in South Africa and Spier was one of their stops. That chance meeting with Eddie McDougall brought me to The Flying Winemaker in Hong Kong, where I am now happily enjoying new opportunities in a new country with a new outlook on life, and, continuing to expand my wine experience.
Which leads me back to our CRASH COURSE IN WINE.
Why learn more about wine?
It will enhance your social experiencesAs we know wining and dining are today's current activity for social exchange. Being confident with food and especially wine are part of making social experiences great. Additionally, wine is a classic (and non-extreme) ice-breaker for new social situations. It's appropriate across all social statuses and it's made all over the world and sharing your new found knowledge with someone who has the same passion is endless.
It will give you greater confidence when buying your next bottle(s)Because wine is so complex. Learning more about wine helps you understand more of what you like.
It improves your ability to smell and tasteSmell and taste are very important body senses, however, they are often not trained. Learning about wine helps us isolate and identify complex flavour compounds and aromas.
It is a personal challenge that can lead to personal satisfactionAs time passes, the opportunity to learn new things becomes more challenging. Wine is a topic that you can learn casually, or it can be as intense as rocket science. Training yourself to be a better blind taster or being able to say that you've tried 50 different types of wine is very self-satisfying. Also, the wine world is so big that there is endless travel opportunities, which is something we can't complain about.
Most importantly, because it is FUN!What is not fun about wine?
The course is designed with the eager beginner (or not so beginner) in mind, set in a casual environment without the intimidation of a normal wine class. Limited to 16 people, it keeps the class small and intimate, giving everyone the opportunity to ask questions and, most importantly, to have fun while learning. See you there!