A Paarl cooperage’s sponsorship of fine French oak barrels for apprentice winemakers under tutelage of some of South Africa’s top winemakers is helping to encourage young winemaking students, who may previously not have had the wherewithal to reach the top of their game, gain the necessary expertise to become star winemakers of the future.
And winelovers will have the opportunity to taste and buy the fruits of their labour.
Cape Cooperage, which for the past four years has supplied barrels to youngsters studying winemaking as part of the Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) Protégé Programme, has extended its sponsorship for a further three years.
The Protégé Programme, part of the Nedbank Winemakers Guild Development Trust since 2006, is a three-year mentorship scheme under which aspirant winemakers get to work alongside members of the Guild.
The CWG comprises some 46 of South Africa’s top winemakers dedicated to achieving excellence in winemaking and furthering the Cape industry as a whole.
Protégés in their second year are required, under guidance of the Guild member they’re interned to at the time, to produce their own wine, from vineyard to bottle.
This involves working closely with coopers at Cape Cooperage in selecting the right type of barrel for the specific wine they’re making, looking at types of French oak and degree of toasting. They’re also required to prepare a budget, production plan and marketing proposal.
During their final internship year, their wines come up for public appraisal and purchase at events preceding the CWG’s annual auction. These include gala dinners in Cape Town and Johannesburg, as well as the auction day’s Silent Auction, the proceeds of which are ploughed back into the mentoring programme.
The three Protégés currently working with Cape Cooperage to select a barrel for their wine (earmarked for next year’s CWG Auction) are Wade Sander, Ricardo Cloete and Thornton Pillay.
Wade will be making a pinot noir under guidance of veteran vintner and Burgundy specialist Peter Finlayson, a founder member of the CWG (now in its 32nd year).
The grapes come from two vineyard blocks on Bouchard Finlayson, the acclaimed Hemel-en-Aarde Valley property which Finlayson established in the late 1980s.
Ricardo is working on a pinotage, a “personal favourite and proudly South African”.
His mentor is CWG member Charles Hopkins who helped Sir David Graaff develop historic De Grendel on the Tygerberg Hills in Durbanville as one of the Cape’s newer acclaimed Cape wine properties.
Thornton is making a naturally sweet, wooded muscadel at Groot Constantia alongside cellarmaster and CWG member Boela Gerber.
The farm is the Cape’s historic home of this style of wine, recognised internationally in the late 17th to early 18th century. Gerber participated in the recent resurrection of a wine of similar stature in the form of Groot Constantia’s Grand Constance.
Says Cape Cooperage Group MD André Kotze: ‘We are proud to be a partner in the Guild’s Protégé Programme by helping these young winemakers fulfill their potential, and to see the transformation of the wine industry come to fruition, one barrel at a time.’
Other sponsors supporting the Protégé Programme are Consol Glass, Amorim Cork and CDS Vintec, which donate bottles, corks and capsules respectively for the Protégés’ wines.