Protégé progress

The Cape Winemakers’ Guild launched its Protégé programme in 2006. Since the start of this three-year internship initiative, designed to cultivate the next generation of award-winning winemakers and viticulturists and promote transformation, 24 protégés have participated in and graduated (10 are still in the programme). The majority are now working in the industry with some even developing their own label.

Rudger van Wyk grew up in George, Southern Cape, where his parents were secondary school teachers; at home, beer and spirits were more part of life than wine.  Seeing his winemaker brother working in Boland Cellar encouraged Rudger himself to study for a BSc in Oenology & Viticulture at Stellenbosch University.

It’s not only the work experience that helps CWG Protégés get where they are today. Rudger acknowledges ‘5am coffee mornings with Abrie (Beeslaar from Kanonkop), talking and learning about his own experiences, successes and mistakes,’ taught me a lot. Rudger is now the winemaker at Stark-Condé, where he has been nominated twice as Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year, a title he won in 2018. He has also started to develop his own brand, Kara-Tara comprising a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, varieties which attracted him after a harvest in Burgundy. ‘Trying to capture the delicate nuances in these grapes is so motivating.’

Kiara Scott grew up in Mitchell’s Plain on the Cape Flats, where she was exposed to violence and alcohol abuse. Strangely, this piqued her interest in wine and, despite her family’s unhappiness with her decision to go into winemaking, she studied at Elsenburg Agricultural College.

‘The opportunity to attend amazing tastings which improved my tasting ability,’ is another benefit Kiara gained from the Protégé programme.  Brookdale is an exciting new farm in Paarl, where she has been winemaker since 2019, with Duncan Savage acting as a ‘sounding board’. Her own brand is a future dream, but after working in the Rhône valley, she’s passionate about the varieties from this area that are also grown on Brookdale. Classic and elegance are her goals with minimal interference in the cellar.

Logan Jooste lived and went to school in Kylemore near Stellenbosch. Wine was an occasional drink at home, but until a year’s bridging Science and Maths course at Stellenbosch University and an aptitude test at school had suggested winemaking, did he decide on a BSc Oenology & Viticulture degree with vines rather than wine winning his attention. 

‘The publicity the Protégé programme attracts is a huge boost to securing a job in the industry,’ Logan believes. As one of very few protégés to go into viticulture, Logan is today viticulturist at Bartinney. How would he suggest getting more black students interested in this aspect?  He suggests, ‘A good way to start would be to explain about viticulture at high school career days.’

These former protégés are in excellent and responsible jobs, a credit to the system they’ve come through. Their experiences within the industry however, differ; views vary from being made to feel welcome, asked for my opinions which makes me feel valuable, to a constant battle with prejudice and worse, people dismissive or openly offensive and racist.

The South African wine industry is lucky to have these and many other youngsters of colour who are talented and dedicated to improving our wines and image. They all should be welcomed and embraced.

- Blog by Angela Lloyd