My expectations of my final year in the cellar of Elsenburg Agricultural Institute

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A bottle of MCC. In expectancy you loosen the muselet around the cork of the bottle. How long will it take and with what force will the flavoursome bubbles push over the lip of this familiar bottle. That is exactly how I feel about this year as a final year student.

Elsenburg has become a familiar place, my home away from home. However, I do not know exactly what awaits me when I report at the Elsenburg Cellar on 11 January 2017.

In August 2013 I told my parents my shocking news. No longer would I be studying Biokinetics after matriculating from Hoërskool Menlopark (after having moved to Pretoria in grade 10 to swim with Ryk Neethling’s swimming club: Players) ... No, God showed me in a vision that He wants to use me in the wine industry.

From that minute onwards I was being prepared for this challenging year awaiting me - my cellar year in 2017. I had to give up swimming in order to lift my math and science marks by 15%. That prepared me in a minimal way for all the sacrifices and hard work to be put into this year.

This will be a life changing year. A year of being stretched over our natural capacity, and out of our comfort zones. We will be moulded and shaped at the hand of winemaker and lecturer Lorraine Geldenhuys. Our minds and bodies will learn to function even when we are too tired to be awake.

I am humbled by the fact that I can be part of this year’s cellar group. The key to a successful year will be in teamwork. The teamwork that I experienced at the two cellars where I job shadowed in matric was an example of note. At both the Simonsig and Mooi Bly Winery, the whole team had incredible respect for one another. I soon realized, that was the only way a cellar could be successful. Respect for the vineyard, respect for your teammates.

This year we will learn to respect time. Time will be the central point around which everything revolves. Getting up when everything and everyone is still sleeping. Working after midnight. Spending nights sleeping in the cellar. Time will turn into a rare commodity. I also have to pass my nine academic subjects for my third year.

We will get to respect the other aspect of time in the wine making process. Time will change the input of our labour in the tanks. How will time change in what we create with the cultivars we are allocated with. Would what we are taught, turn into excellence?

Personally I do not have a preference to a certain cultivar as yet. I would love to be diverse, in order to have an open mind as far as the industry is concerned. I hope to learn everything about the tanks and all other machinery of winemaking including the cleaning of tanks, repairing pipes and pumps. Getting to know every crease and nook of this industry.

In my first and second year here at Elsenburg, I noticed them…the cellar students. Always running around, barely touching ground. A tight group of motivated people, working to absorb as much as they could about this passionate industry. We only have one year… and we will not know everything at the end of 2017. This is merely the beginning of our journey. The winemakers we look up to right now will be the ones who will enrich our knowledge even further.

I do not know much yet, what I do know is that this year I will be like a sponge. Through personal challenges I face, I know that God eliminates mountains to put us where He can use us for His glory. This is potentially the toughest year I will face in my career. I am not facing this alone.

Joshua van Blommestein