Yesterday was the final day of the CapeWine 2015 Conference and it started just a touch slower than the previous days for this dedicated wine taster! Before heading to The Apprentice seminar I took the opportunity to follow up with Stephen Richardson of Mellasat Vineyards. At the Wine Oscars of Paarl event I went to the previous evening Steve mentioned he produced a white Pinotage – the only one in South Africa, and likely the world. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take a closer look.
The grapes for the white Pinotage are picked in three batches during harvest to provide varying levels of acidity and different flavour profiles. The wine also spends 11 months on lees before being matured in oak of which 15% is new Romanian oak.
Where red Pinotage has red berry fruit notes the fruit for white Pinotage came through as stone and tropical fruits. The texture of the wine had a nice creaminess to it and this was perfectly balance with fresh acidity – all in all a very drinkable drop!
Next up I headed over to the final seminar of the CapeWine2015 Conference, The Apprentice, which was a panel discussion with some of South Africa’s protégés, who have come up through the industry from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The discussion was led by Matome Mbatha, the Africa Market Manager for WOSA (Wines of South Africa), who opened the seminar drawing from his own personal experience; “I come from Soweto and you can’t imagine being part of such an industry but you realise there are opportunities in this industry.”
Many of the panel members shared the experience of coming from families and communities where alcohol does not sit comfortably alongside deep religious conviction or instances of alcohol abuse. It was agreed that way forward was with education through teaching appreciation of wine and demonstrating how wine can be part of different social occasions. In the words of Pamela Makhanda, Wine Steward at One & Only Restaurant, “a breakthrough” was needed with her deeply religious family to bring them around to being comfortable with her work at the restaurant.
As the seminar came to a close it was clear these young people had worked extremely hard to be in the positions they are in today and they are not standing still. Each panel member had a clear vision for their future within the wine industry. A sense of responsibility to give back to their communities and to support others coming up in the industry sat very comfortably alongside ambition and determination to continue developing their own careers.
Together with various organisations such as the Cape Winemakers Guild and the Pinotage Youth Development Academy the wine industry is moving forward to ensure the diverse cultural composition of South African society is clearly reflected within the industry at all levels.
L-R: Pemla Makhanda, Matome Mbatha, Phelisa Moni, Heinrich Kulsen, Praisy Dlamini 
As the final seminar for the conference came to a close we had come full circle and the words of Wayne Van Rensburg at the opening seminar came to mind – “Africa is rising” – and if these ambitious and talented protégés are any indication, the future is very bright.
1. Pemla Makhanda – Wine Steward at the One & Only Restaurant, Matome Mbatha – Africa Market Manager of Wines of South Africa, Phelisa Moni – Wine Advisor at Spice Route Winery, Heinrich Kulsen – Winemaker at Nederburg, Praisy Dlamini – Assistant Winemaker at Zonnebloem