The young, creative and talented Kelly-Marie Jacobs has been appointed as Zonnebloem’s white winemaker.
Kelly-Marie’s career has been paved by inspiring people and a natural affinity for making wines.
Her connection to Stellenbosch runs deep, with her grandparents originally from the town where they met, at the Stellenbosch train station.
But it was a magazine article about winemaker Debbie Thompson, now cellar master at Simonsig, which initially sparked her interest in the field.
“I always wanted to be an actress. I have 10 years of speech and drama experience. But when I read the article about Debbie, I immediately knew that winemaking was my true calling,” she says.
“I have learned since and through my travels that food and wine really bring people together. It’s a shared moment of pleasure that fuels conversation and envelopes you in a blanket of sensory bliss.
“This, together with the inspiration from winemakers who never stop experimenting and innovating to shape the wine industry and bring the full potential of the vines to life, has become the centre of all that I do,” she says.
Kelly-Marie grew up in Kuils River, where she still resides, and obtained a BSc in Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch University, after finishing school at The Settlers High School.
She worked for four years, from 2013 to 2016, at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, under the Elsenburg Agricultural College, where she harvested and lectured in the fields of oenology, biochemistry and wine marketing, and arranged exchange programmes with the CFPPA wine school in Beaune, France.
“The experience of working at the college immediately after studying gave me the opportunity to continue learning, while teaching others. It offered so much exposure to the industry and all the facets within the wine industry, and how they interlink,” she says. “I have become rather interested in the marketing and sales of wines. I relish the moments where I can educate and converse with people in a fun way about wine – while tasting wine of course.”
She joined the Zonnebloem team as assistant white winemaker towards the end of 2016, and her recent promotion to take lead responsibility for the white wines is both incredibly exciting and very humbling, she says.
“I am driven by my vision to continue the growth within and beyond the realms of Zonnebloem’s rich history as one of South Africa’s oldest wine brands. The wine needs to speak to and reach as many people as possible. It’s one of the few wines that can introduce a novice to the wonderful world of wine as it equally enchants more seasoned wine drinkers and collectors.”
Well-travelled, she has been to Burgundy, France twice, did a harvest in the village of Pommard and travelled to Mendoza, Argentina, to broaden her winemaking knowledge.
Kelly-Marie answered a few questions:
What are you reading at the moment?
Blackberry Wine, by Joanne Harris. I found the book in a second-hand shop in Riebeek Kasteel. I immediately fell in love with the novel when I read the opening line, which states, “Wine talks, everyone knows that…”
Nominate your 8th wonder of the world (person, place or experience):
My grandfather, who passed at the age of 92. He was the most hard-working man I have ever known, besides my dad, of course. From a young age, he instilled so many core values and ethics into my life. He really believed in me and a lot of what he said about my future, has surprisingly come true. He was just a truly wonderful man.
Which phrase or word do you most overuse?
When wine tasting – “Spit on the inside”.
What was your first job?
Promotional sales girl for VEET hair removal cream!
What is your biggest regret?
Not waking up to my potential earlier in my life. I was very unsure of myself and sometimes felt very inadequate. It made me miss a few opportunities.
What is your biggest indulgence?
Watching old-school gangster/mobster movies.
Tell us about a hidden gem in the Western Cape that not many people know about?
A small winery nestled in a tiny nook of Constantia, called High Constantia Wine Cellar. They have the most scrumptious cabernet franc.
When and where are you at your happiest?
I am the happiest when I feel like I am living a life that I can be proud of.
Which talent would you most like to have?
To sing! I love music and singing, but I have an awful voice.