40 Under 40: Stephanie Wiid

I e-stalk Stephanie Wiid! Creepy, yes. Without reason? Heck no. As winemaker at Fairview Winery and more recently as one half of team Thistle and Weed, her slow and steady rise in the South African wine scene is nice to witness.

Wine runs in Stephanie’s blood - her grandfather was a wine farmer and both parents grew up in Stellenbosch. After matriculating at Parktown Girls High School, she dusted the North off her feet to study Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch University. Harvests in Bordeaux and England followed and she completed her MSc Agric in Viticulture part time, graduating in March 2016. Stephanie loves Kannas, her husband. And her four-legged children, Khaleesi and Khumba. And luckily for us, she has a love for knowledge and wine as well, which she can and will make to her heart's content. Which means that we can drink it to our heart's content. How is that for a win-win situation?

You can catch her at Wine Cellar’s Young Guns 7, where they are set to release Thistle & Weed’s red in June. I will certainly be there. In a wholly professional and somewhat dignified manner. No stalking involved this time around.

What vintage are you?

‘86

If aliens came down from space and you had to explain to them in one bottle of wine what it is that you do, what would you make? 

Chenin blanc – if the aliens prefer white.

What do you normally drink at home? 

It changes with the seasons. Currently our ‘house wine’ is the Fairview Paarl Chenin blanc (subtly oaked) and the Fairview Piekenierskloof Grenache.

What is your favourite ever wine? 

I LOVE RIOJA, Roda is my favourite.

What sparked your love of drink? 

The decision to study Oenology and Viticulture was influenced by my sisters who know me better than I do!  And my family heritage - Oupa was a pioneer in the wine industry. He started the Stellenbosch Wine Route and had the first restaurant on a wine farm, Spier. Can you imagine before you couldn’t taste at a wine farm? The spark and love for wine grew stronger as I started understanding the subtleties of the product and the influence of terroirs on the final product.

What should never be done in the winemaking process? 

Compromising on quality.

Where are you happiest?

I love sharing the product and stories of our wines and vision for the future with people. This gets me really excited - especially after working so hard on a wine in the cellar. I also love the smells in the cellar during harvest time, it is exhilarating. There is also a bit of uncertainty as you don’t know what the vintage will bring. I also love blending, I find this a very creative process tweaking a wine with a percentage of another. It seems I am happy in my day to day work as well as when I am sharing the product with friends - I’m a glass half-full person.

If you had to be a wine, what would you be? 

Chenin blanc – there are many styles and shows great diversity in South Africa – I will be flying the South African flag high. Also, a Chenin can have so much flavour squeezed into it and loads of complexity which is a bit like my life – full to the brim!

Best dish your mom makes?

We sadly lost her to cancer last year but she was well known for her creative foods and over-catering. Things I’m going to miss – beskuit, waterblommetjie bredie, roasted red peppers, and soups!

What’s your greatest vice?

Speaking my mind.

The best and worst thing about the wine industry? 

Best: The friends I’ve made.  

Worst: The size of the pond, it is easy to forget there is a whole world of wine out there competing with brand South Africa, let’s stick together.

Best advice you ever got? From whom? 

“If you are sitting with a blank canvas in front of you and struggling to know how to start, just draw a line, any line, then it is easier to carry on when the page isn’t blank anymore”. Mom.  

She was an exceptional artist, but for me this applies to me so much – leap and the universe will catch you.

Who do you admire in the wine industry?

Charles Back is an inspiration to everyone he works with.

What is on your wine bucket list?

More travel in Spain and Jerez, more time in Burgundy and Alsace and I’d love to visit the wineries in India.

President Zuma has finally (completely) lost the plot and is confiscating all the wine in South Africa to fill his cellar at Nkandla – you can keep a single bottle from your collection. Which bottle would you save?

My recently acquired bottle of Alphonse Merlot.

What is your idea of oenological brilliance? 

I’ve grown up in a creative work environment where we are pushing boundaries – try our Fairview Brut made from non-traditional cultivars Viognier and Grenache! I love it when an idea comes to fruition.

Where would you like to see the South African wine and food industry going and growing over the next decade?

Let’s grow brand South Africa together. Teamwork!

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? Can and would you cook? 

Johnny Depp, Sheryl Sandberg and Nelson Mandela (one can dream, right?).  And yes, I would cook but would probably have to get someone else to do dessert.

What would you like to achieve in the next ten years?

I’d like to be part of Fairview’s growth as a brand locally and internationally and see my own wines in Thistle and Weed flourish.

Who would you point out as up and coming tastemakers in South Africa? 

Seth Shezi for sure and Anna-Belle Durant (She Said).

Any advice for the young planning on going out on their own in the South African food and wine industry?

Be brave and take the plunge, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

http://thistleandweed.co.za/

Stephanie Wiid, Fairview Winemaker

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