There is much more to wine than meets the eye. This was but one of many enlightened discoveries made by a group of learners visiting the Cape Winelands last month as guests of Stellenbosch University and the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute.
Twenty learners – all female – were sponsored to travel from Limpopo Province, Pretoria and Johannesburg in the Gauteng Province and local schools in the Western Cape to attend a three-day viticulture and oenology programme that was tailormade to showcase vast career opportunities in the wine and agricultural sector.
It was the second time a programme of its kind was hosted in collaboration with the Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) Protégé Programme and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to give learners a closer look at wine as a career. Every candidate was selected on merit and showed a keen interest in applied sciences.
Monika Basson, Undergraduate Recruitment and Marketing Coordinator at Stellenbosch University, spearheaded the project in 2019. Basson believed it was vital to demystify the agricultural sector, debunk any negative perceptions especially young women might have of the agrisciences as a career and shed light on the vast opportunities it offers. The learners were also allowed to change their university applications if desired and were informed about the relevant bursaries.
“The girls thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, including vineyard and cellar tours, and they especially loved the chocolate tasting! They also commented on how they benefitted from being exposed to the practical workings of a cellar such as JC Le Roux and then listening to protégés' own experiences.”
The itinerary included meeting previous CWG Protégé Praisy Dlamini, who is now successfully managing her own brand while also being the general manager of Adama Wines. Meeting Dlamini gave the learners a real prospect of the possibilities and boosted their confidence to consider pursuing careers that were not on their study radars before.
Upon arrival in Stellenbosch, the learners settled into one of the University residences to envision themselves as students before an interactive drumming session broke the ice. The same evening, they met with current students from various departments in the Faculty of AgriSciences, who shared their own experiences and answered any questions the learners might have.
As most of the learners were not 18 years of age, no alcohol was consumed during the three day programme, but it did include a sensory workshop, as well as the opportunity of experiencing the intricate workings of a wine cellar first-hand to better understand the operations while meeting the people behind the scenes.
One of the highlights included visiting Bosman Adama – the largest vine nursery in Africa – to see how vines are grafted, all the way to where grapes would ultimately arrive in the cellar to make wine. Their excitement was palpable as each learner honed into an area of interest, asking questions about every detail in the value chain. The third day of the programme was concluded with a networking opportunity and dinner at Ernie Els Wine Estate with protégé candidates, winemakers and viticulturists working in the industry.
The collective feedback expressed the learners' delight and astonishment: “Not only did we make new friends, but we also got to interact with people working in the industry. Furthermore, we experienced a taste of varsity life with an informative campus tour that answered all our questions. We left with a better understanding of how much the Faculty of AgriSciences offers and how relevant these programmes are,”" said Mpho Zaal from Good Hope Seminary High School.
Please visit this link and listen to what some learners had to say about the experience.