Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wine industry snatches up Cape Winemakers Guild protégés

Heinrich Kulsen and Elmarie Botes

The impact of the Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé Programme on transformation in the wine industry is beginning to bear fruit with no less than four graduates in full time winemaking positions in just seven years.

Elmarie Botes, the latest Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé to complete her 3-year mentorship programme, has been appointed as assistant winemaker for Fleur du Cap at Die Bergkelder.

Just back from France where she and fellow Guild Protégé, Heinrich Kulsen, spent almost a month in the vineyards and cellars of famous French domaines as part of the Western Cape Burgundy Exchange Programme, Elmarie has already joined the winemaking team at Die Bergkelder.

Heinrich who still has a year to go before graduating from the Protégé Programme, will be swapping Villiera, where he has spent a year working with Guild Chairman Jeff Grier, with Hermanuspietersfontein and winemaker Bartho Eksteen.

Last year’s graduates, Tamsyn Jeftha and Sacha Claasen are both in full time positions as assistant winemakers at Hartenberg Estate and Asara Wines respectively, while Praisy Dlamini, the Guild’s first female protégé has moved from Die Bergkelder to the all-woman Zonnebloem winemaking team.

Elmarie and Heinrich, the first Protégés to take part in the Western Cape Burgundy Exchange Programme this year, both consider their experience priceless. Besides a 2-week stint at the Centre of Vocational Training and Agricultural Promotion (CFPPA) in Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, they visited various Premier Cru and Grand Cru parcels before working in the vineyards and cellars during harvest time at their designated domaines. Elmarie was seconded to Courgis in Chablis, whilst Heinrich worked in Premeaux.

Working with well-known Chablis winemaker, Thomas Pico, has had a profound effect on Elmarie, who fell in love with his winemaking philosophy: “It is about putting what nature gives you in a bottle. The winemaker is the smallest factor in producing the wine; it is mainly about your grapes and terroir.”
For Heinrich the experience, which opened his eyes to a different world, has been a revelation as a South African: “Although we are a fairly young wine producing country compared to Burgundy, I think we are evolving quickly and producing world class wines already.”

Sponsored by the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Development Trust since 2006, the Protégé Programme is a three year internship programme which seeks to transform the wine industry by cultivating and nurturing promising individuals to become winemakers of excellence.

The Protégés are mentored by members of the Guild who provide them with essential hands-on skills and experience.          

For more information on the Cape Winemakers Guild, contact Tel: 021 852 0408 or send an email to

Follow @CapeWinemakersG on Twitter. Students interested in applying for the Protégé Programme can visit the Guild’s website at