First guild protégés honed in Burgundy

Wednesday, 16 October, 2013
WineLand Magazine
The Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) Protégé Programme has significantly grown and evolved since its inception in 2006. There are currently seven participating protégés, with four successful graduates to date, and this year the first two of them were chosen to take part in the Western Cape Burgundy Exchange Programme.
This was announced at a recent CWG Protégés Day, which took place at Ernie Els Wines outside Stellenbosch. The current protégés shared their experiences, while the wines they produced during their internships were presented for tasting.

The CWG Protégé Programme comprises a three year internship,aimed at fast-tracking transformation in the wine industry.During the internship, protégés work alongside Guild winemakers,who play an important role in cultivating and mentoring these promising youngsters. The programme is sponsored by the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Development Trust, with the Ernie Els winemaker and Guild member, Louis Strydom, as chairman.

Third and fourth year Viticulture and Oenology students at the University of Stellenbosch and Elsenburg Agricultural College may apply for this programme. Louis explains that the Guild’s objectives are to identify young winemakers’ top potential, while simultaneously inspiring them to achieve excellence.

Protégés rotate among wineries on a yearly basis during the internship and aside from three years’ job security, with a full salary, they also receive essential mentorship from the winemakers.

Coaching and life skills guidance are furthermore provided by the protégé facilitator, while other courses, such as that of the Michael Fridjhon Wine Judging Academy, are also available to the protégés.

“We want to train the protégés to think like winemakers; we are looking for tomorrow’s leaders,” explains Louis. During their internships, the young winemakers get a chance to produce their own wine, made in their own style and bottled under their own name.

Tasting through these impressive wines,made by a group of passionate and skilled young winemakers, it seems that the programme has completed a full circle, with the proof being in the pudding.

Heinrich Kulsen is in his second year of the programme and is one of the two protégés participating in the Western Cape Burgundy Exchange Programme this year. He started his internship under Louis’s guidance at Ernie Els, while currently learning from Jeff Grier at Villiera, where he produced an interesting and delicious Chenin Blanc this year.

The Dimples Chenin Blanc 2013 was fermented in two different containers – a perforated plastic egg-shaped tank and a premium white wine barrel – and it spent three weeks on the lees. The wine has ripe tropical fruit flavours on the nose, with smooth and creamy textures on the palate.

Heinrich explains that he specifically chose to work with this variety due to its versatility and history. “I will continue my internship at Hermanuspietersfontein next year and, so far it’s been a humbling, challenging and life-changing experience,” he says.

Elmarie Botes is in her third and final year and joins Heinrichon the exchange programme. She started at Steenberg Wines in her first year, worked with Abrie Beeslaar at Kanonkop in her second year and is now working alongside Gary Jordan at Jordan Winery in Stellenbosch.

She produced her own Pinotage, called 43 Bush Pinotage, while working at Kanonkop and this wine was chosen (with an 80% yes vote) to be auctioned at the Guild’s various charity dinners and silent auctions during the year. Elmarie explains that it has been a truly amazing experience, with the difficulties and challenges shaping her to become who she is today.

Elmarie and Heinrich are the first protégés to take part in the exchange programme and they are enrolled at the Centre of Vocational Training and Agricultural Promotion (CFPPA) in Beaune, Burgundy, for about a month, until the 11th of October.

Louis explains that they are working towards a more formalised agreement with the exchange programme, so that all of the future protégés will get the chance to join in this opportunity.

In conjunction with the formal learnership part of the exchange programme, Elmarie and Heinrich will also gain valuable practical experience while working on various small, family-owned wineries throughout this French wine region.

Aside from the Protégé Programme, and now the Western Cape Burgundy Exchange Programme, the CWG has also established a bursary programme, the CWG Billy Hofmeyr Seta Bursary Programme. It is supported by Agri Seta and provides financial assistance to students during their final year of study, after which they can apply to the Protégé Programme.

All of these initiatives by the CWG require the unfaltering commitment and enthusiasm of everyone involved in order to be successful. The saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”Likewise, these programmes are not just about giving something to this new generation of winemakers, but educating and developing them to ensure an even brighter future.

Photo caption:
The current CWG Protégés: Elmarie Botes, Philani Shongwe, Heinrich Kulsen, Wade Sander, Thornton Pillay, Ricardo Cloete and Chandré Petersen.

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