30 Under 30: Growing with the brand

Thursday, 11 July, 2024
WineLand, Carla van der Merwe
Seven years into her winemaking journey at multi-award winning Benguela Cove, there’s no stopping Michelle Waldeck on her path to even greater success.

The first seeds for her future were planted during her years at Swartland High School in Malmesbury, Michelle Waldeck (29) says. The regular drives between home and the hostel provided glimpses of vineyards and ignited a fascination for the cultivation of these seemingly wild vines planted in perfect rows.

With a multitude of interests but no definite calling, Michelle found herself intrigued by the multifaceted possibilities the wine industry presented. Recognising the potential for a career that could encompass various fields in a single industry, she decided to study viticulture and oenology at Stellenbosch University.

Initially intent on pursuing viticulture, it all changed for Michelle during her six-month internship at KWV, where theoretical knowledge seamlessly merged with practical application. The moment she walked into the red wine cellar, something clicked, and she just knew winemaking was her calling. This was also where she met Johann Fourie, Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate’s cellarmaster, whose team she joined seven years ago.

Her decision to stay with one producer for this long is simple. “The biggest reason is that Johann and Penny [Streeter, owner of Benguela Cove] are great mentors,” she says. Johann has wide-ranging technical knowledge of winemaking, while his cool and calm demeanour, and humility are traits she constantly strives to better in herself. Penny is one of the most dynamic people she’s ever met and her inspiring story is a reminder that there are no shortcuts to success. “I also have opportunities both in South Africa and abroad, and I’ve also been able to see how you grow a brand from the ground up.”

Michelle attributes her achievements to being part of an exceptional team. From multiple impressive accolades at prestigious wine shows to being nominated for the Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year award last year,each milestone serves as a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence.

But Michelle’s aspirations extend beyond personal accolades. She envisions a future where she can pay it forward by nurturing the next generation of winemakers and fostering a culture of collaboration and knowledge exchange. She’s excited by the ongoing transformation in the industry that’s driven by a shared commitment to elevate the standard of South African wines on the global stage.

Rapid fire Q&A

  • Favourite wine ever tasted? Impossible to pick one.
  • Favourite bingeworthy TV show? One Tree Hill
  • Favourite pick-me-up song? "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" by Shania Twain
  • Least-known fact about you? I’m a massive coffee snob.
  • Ideal holiday destination? My dream holiday would be going to the Monaco GP in the south of France first and then on to Provence.

To connect with Michelle via LinkedIn, click HERE.

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Michelle Waldeck, winemaker at Benguela Cove
Michelle Waldeck, winemaker at Benguela Cove

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