Nine final-year winemaking students at the Department of Agriculture’s Elsenburg College showcased the wines that they have made as part of their studies, on Thursday October 18.
Students at the college are trained to make wines on a commercial scale in order to be industry ready when they graduate.
At the end of their studies, they will hold a Bachelor of Agriculture degree, and all nine have already found work opportunities for next year.
The students, guided by winemaker Lorraine Geldenhuys and assistant winemaker Solomon Monyamane, work with several different varietals of wine throughout the year, and some of these are then bottled and labelled as Elsenburg wines.
Elsenburg celebrates its 120th anniversary this year; however, winemaking was only introduced at the school in 1976. Since then, many of the Western Cape’s most decorated winemakers have passed through its doors.
MEC for Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, said: “The students have made us proud and we wish them well as they go out into the industry and follow in the footsteps of the many winemakers who have studied at Elsenburg and continue to fly the flag for our province’s wines.”
In addition to the hands-on training they receive at the campus, students have also received practical experience on local wine farms, as well as support and mentorship from those in the industry.
The event was also held as a celebration of those who have partnered with the school and the students.
Mr Winde said: “These students are all very passionate about wine, but the industry has played a valuable role in honing their skills and ensuring that they are ready to go out into the commercial market when they graduate, and we are grateful for that.
“The wine industry in this province plays an important role in our economy, through job creation, exports and tourism, and by ensuring that our talented young winemakers are nurtured and developed, we are able to ensure that this industry and all of the value chain that it supports, will continue to grow and excel into the future.”
As part of their experience at the college, the class of 2018 also travelled to Portugal earlier this year, where they were able to learn about European, and specifically drought-resistant cultivars.
During the event, students introduced wines that they have worked on, as well as wines previously made at the school by pairing them with various foodstuffs including salmon, steak and chocolate brownies.
Student Roger Cloete, who introduced the fortified wine at the event, said it had been his job to add the brandy at the exact right moment in the process to ensure no further fermentation took place.
“I didn’t sleep for two and a half days. It was hectic,” he said.
Introducing the pinotage, was student Phillip Deetlefs, who said the uniquely South African wine was first made at Elsenburg in 1941.
Winemaking is in his blood, as the Deetlefs wine estate is one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the country.
While Elsenburg is in possession of a liquor licence, the wines produced at the college are not currently for sale.
They are, however, regularly served at official events, and used for marketing purposes and as gifts for visitors to the department.
Head of department at the Department of Agriculture, Joyene Isaacs, said: “Going forward we would like to look at different ways that we can make the wines commercially available.
“By next year’s wine launch, we would like to have a plan in place,” she added.