The Pioneer: Anel Grobler

Thursday, 8 August, 2013
Shante Hutton,
Spit or Swallow's illustrious mistress and the wonder behind winetimes, Anel Grobler, chats to
There is a lot I have to be thankful for when it comes to Anel. She paved the way for those of us who, with no formal wine background, have entered the wine industry because of our passionate love of wine. Behind her happy-go-lucky exterior, is an open and honest heart (powered by wine) and a desire to see the SA wine industry flourish further.

Once a production manager in the clothing industry, it's almost divine intervention that brought her over to the wine world. Yet she recalls childhood memories of traveling down from Pretoria and visiting Hermanus and Stellenbosch wineries. Her father would also pick one day where they went looking at wine estates and both Ataraxia and Delheim hold a special place in her heart.
In her early 20's, she says that visiting wineries was her and Jan's stress relief aid and from that came something rather special. "I was 24 when Jan and I decided to start a blog to mark where we had been and how we found each wine and winery. It was really to help us keep track but it just grew from there."

In 2008 she finished working as production manager and put her efforts into getting more clued up on social media. From this, the Spit or Swallow blog was made into a website by the oh-so capable hands of tecky Jan.
"I set up a Twitter account for ourselves and would tweet news articles and fun facts, drawing from popular online wine publications - our following grew. It wasn't until Simon Back asked me why, after seeing our click-through rate and budding followers, we didn't have a location for the links - our own news website."

Winetimes came about in August 2009 and housed wine and spirits news from South Africa and the rest of the world - "In the very beginning, we went to every event we were invited to so that we could get our name out. It was a lot of wine and a lot of food."
Steenberg was the first client to acquire a press box and from there, many more wineries came on board realizing the potential and unique readership that winetimes was procuring.

The wine industry has been known to have its cliques but Anel never felt that she was unwelcome. "I never made out that I knew anything about wine, the beauty of it is that it is subjective so I just wanted to be open about my experiences and I think that opened things up to a bigger market. I came in with a casual approach which perhaps was missing."
As far as a male dominated industry goes, "to a certain degree it helped- knowing when to wear heels or flats can get you places. But, I don't see there being too much of a female/male divide - there are so many strong female voices in the wine industry and I have the likes of Angela Lloyd and others to thank for that."
"Perhaps the real issue, is a lack of race in wine. We see a lot of Sommeliers of different ethnicity but not writers - that could open up a whole new market if there were different wine voices in South Africa."
"I also think that PR companies need to making a bigger effort to find them so that we can see more diversity at events which are also white dominated."

Her involvement in the industry has given her an in-depth view into the progression of wine tourism, and both her and Jan have seen a massive difference from the first year of Spit or Swallow to the service and experiences one receives now. "I would say that 90% of wineries are taking their clientelle seriously and have massively upped their game. Most tasting Rooms are excellent."

As for advice for any budding wine lovers/drinkers/critics - "Drink a lot....of different wines and explore. Write about your experiences and be honest but have a sense of respect. You may step on people's toes but sometimes that can be a good thing. Most of all, love what you are doing."

See what Jan and Anel are up to here: &