Nature vs Nurture

by | Apr 3, 2018 | Opinion

Anri Truter, Winemaker, Beyerskloof

Growing up in a wine family has definitely offered more advantages than challenges to further my career as a winemaker. I lived on a wine farm and being close to the cellar helped me understand what it takes to enter the wine industry. Although I was never forced by my dad, Beyers Truter, to go into winemaking it was always around me, which made my decision to become a winemaker easier. Thinking back, I took growing up on a wine farm for granted. Knowing what I know now it was such a privilege.

But it can also be a challenge if your heart is not in winemaking and your parents or other family members force you into the industry. You need a passion for winemaking and it’s something you can’t do without when trying to fill your dad/mom/uncle’s shoes in the industry. Winemakers who grew up outside the industry always have a huge drive and passion which make them very competitive once they’re in the industry, so it’s important for me to do the best I can with what I have at Beyerskloof.

I also had the privilege to grow up among industry legends such as Kevin Arnold, Francois Naudé, and Abe Beukes. I had the opportunity to work overseas or almost anywhere in South Africa, but I took the safe route and started at Beyerskloof after completing my studies in 2005 – and have no regrets. Someone who grew up outside the industry might not have this opportunity and that will definitely have an effect on the path they have to take to become a winemaker.

I’ve also learned a lot more than the winemaking side of the business. Watching my dad during school holidays was amazing. Wherever we stopped, be it at Putsonderwater or Sun City, he would walk into each and every restaurant, wine shop, liquor store or hotel with a bottle of wine, talk to the owner, manager or the guy filling the wine racks and explain to them in his own special way why Beyerskloof should be their wine of choice.

Apart from the holidays I learned that tastings are all about stories. My dad never gets too technical about wine when doing a tasting but instead tells an entertaining story with each wine, which people love. I sometimes think he would have been one hell of a wine comedian!

I also had the opportunity after school to work in the UK with our wine importers Raisin Social. This was a great eye-opener for me. Company directors Simon and Patrick Halliday took me under their wings. I learned a lot about the business in the UK and about life. This is experience you can usually only pick up if you grow up in a wine family.

I wouldn’t want my path into the industry any other way. I had the opportunity to grow up on Kanonkop and Beyerskloof, two of the best Pinotage-producing estates in South Africa. I also had the privilege to grow up with a dad who’s one of the country’s best winemakers. Without this I wouldn’t be where I am today.


Tariro Masayiti, Winemaker and COO, Springfontein Wine Estate

My journey as a winemaker started when I was a science student at the University of Zimbabwe and worked part-time at Mukuyu Winery as a lab assistant. I didn’t know anything about wine so also spent many hours as a general hand in the cellar. The practical experience I gained at Mukuyu was crucial in preparing me for a new career in winemaking.

In 1999 Mukuyu Winery offered me the opportunity of a lifetime to study oenology and viticulture at Stellenbosch University. My acceptance letter from the university was in English and so I was not prepared for the language shock that awaited me! My first reaction was to quit but I realised this was probably the only opportunity I’d ever get to study winemaking, so I stayed put!

Early on in my studies I joined the university wine club which gave me access to the real world of wine. I could visit wineries and taste wines presented by winemakers themselves. Whether by luck or fate I was in the class of 2002, which produced some of the finest winemakers in the business today. Not having had much exposure to the outside wine industry I relied on my classmates, some of whom came from established wineries, for information about the real world out there.

Back then Wine was a huge source of information in English for me and I never missed a copy. The one thing I lacked, however, was information about the business side of running a winery. I was fortunate to get this training when I joined Distell.

After graduating I was appointed assistant winemaker at Fleur du Cap in 2003 and senior winemaker at Nederburg in 2005. This was a huge vote of confidence in me by the Distell leadership. It gave me a sense of responsibility to become some kind of new-generation winemaker in the company.

I joined the industry at a time when there was a great deal of attention on transformation. Although I came from Zimbabwe and had not experienced apartheid I carried some of the weight of representing black winemakers on my shoulders. Some of the most memorable wine presentations I’ve had over the years were to my black brothers and sisters. I clearly represented a different voice and character from the usual.

I’ve always felt the need to think outside the box and the more I try new and successful ideas, the more I want to push boundaries. My current position as winemaker and COO of Springfontein Wine Estate entails working closely with my vineyard manager wife Hildegard Witbooi and breaking new ground literally and figuratively.

I’ve always surrounded myself with good mentors and now I have the privilege of working with Springfontein owner Dr Johst Weber. He’s leading the way by investing in new Chenin Blanc and Pinotage vineyards and planting another uniquely South African variety, Chenel. Three years ago we also took the bold decision to convert our vineyards and winemaking to organic to reflect the terroir even more.

My advice to anyone who enters this industry without any background knowledge is to not limit yourself. The work you put in determines the opportunities that come your way.

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