Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating effects on the South African wine industry, respected Cape Wine Master and newly appointed principal of the Cape Wine Academy, Heidi Duminy, sheds light on how the education body is reimagining its learning experience in a time of inconceivable changes.
Q: Where does your passion for wine, and more importantly, wine education come from?
HD: Coming from a beer-loving German family, my first real encounter with wine was at hotel school. I was immediately drawn to the sensory intrigue of the various styles of wine and fell in love with the rich narrative of nature, generational devotion and technical aspects that give every bottle a story. Our lecturer, Pieter Viljoen, was a master at enthusing us with evocative food and wine matches and his depth of knowledge and attention to detail were contagious. The school’s wine tours were also legendary. This is where I made my first starry-eyed connections with the wine community and the people who became my driving inspirations, including industry heroes Phyllis Hands, Dave Hughes, Nicky Krone, Hannes Myburgh, Beyers Truter and many others. As anyone who has been smitten by wine knows, the more you learn, the more you need to know, and what makes wine so amenable to education is the wonderful generosity of the people who are passionate about sharing their knowledge and the stories that perpetuate an indelible Cape wine culture and pride.
Q: As a Cape Wine Master (CWM), what are some of the expertise you will bring to the Cape Wine Academy (CWA)?
HD: The Cape Wine Masters are proud alumni of the Cape Wine Academy and we are united in the journey through the various levels and courses required to achieve the ultimate title of CWM. It’s a challenging path that certainly has its ups and downs – I have a healthy appreciation and significant experience having endured the associated joys and frustrations along the way both as a student and lecturer. This positions me well to offer inspiration, leadership and guidance to the students as well as making real and practical progress to modernise the educational experience for absolute relevance.
Q: What would you say to people who want to do a wine course, but might feel too intimidated by the subject to enrol?
HD: Just do it! Wine is a wonderful, welcoming, wild ride for absolutely anybody. If you are even slightly curious to learn a little more for personal or professional reasons, sign up for a casual tasting, join us for a wine dinner, take the online course at your own pace in the comfort of your home… I can guarantee that you will be thirsty for more! The great thing about wine is that you can follow your instincts and keep things as simple or go as detailed and formal as your growing knowledge leads you. At the CWA, it’s about your wine journey in your own time, and everyone is welcome.
Q: Why is the CWA such a go-to for wine aficionados to truly immerse themselves in the education of wine?
HD: The CWA was established over 40 years ago and the founders recognised that the passion and love for wine needed to be shared and taught to grow the blossoming wine culture in South Africa. From the very first days, the mission has been simple, yet critical: Wine education must be available to all for the greater good of the wine industry and wine enthusiasts. South African wine is truly a matter of national pride and an important part of the economy represented both locally and internationally. The CWA is the recognised brain trust for Cape wine education to help keep the flag flying high.
Q: How has Covid-19 influenced wine education in South Africa, and globally?
HD: Along with the rest of the world, wine education was instantly changed forever. The advantage has been the acceleration into blended learning platforms that combine virtual and contact experiences. The wave of online courses, webinars, tasting experiences, conferences and forums, social media and other creative connections in this time of separation has catapulted endless, juicy opportunities to connect, engage and experience wine. This has transcended global boundaries and whilst the connection made by the clink of glasses can never fully emulate the wine experience, it certainly has opened a fantastic future of rich immersive learning.
Q: Wine enjoyment is such a sociable event. What are your tips on how people can still enjoy wine and its sociable aspects given the new reality of physical distancing?
HD: Wine is about enjoyment and there is so much joy to be found connecting with what’s in your glass. Find out how it came to be in the bottle, where it grew and why it looks and smells and tastes as it does. Be patient and be curious. Wonder about everything and then go on a discovery mission. You will find kindred wine enthusiasts to start conversations with and you will be so surprised and inspired when the dots start to join. The anticipation of up-close-and-personal wine experiences will be so much more enriching when lockdown levels and liberties allow.
Q: How will the CWA adapt to the ‘new normal’ in the current climate?
HD: The reimagining of our learning experiences started early into lockdown when the protracted reality of our collective new normal became obvious. We have successfully presented the theoretical sessions of several courses virtually and will be completing the experience with various wine tasting seminars for a certificate and diploma from September onwards. We have also adapted the theoretical exams to online platforms. Whilst nothing can replace the richness of human connections, there have been some great advantages to these new blended learning methods. For the first time, course groups are getting to know their national classmates and the ability to transcend geographical boundaries has allowed us to secure top lecturers including Cape Wine Masters, high profile winemakers and other experts in subject-matter fields.
Q: Why would you encourage people to learn more about wine?
HD: Learning more about wine is one of the best ways to get to know your senses and perception of aroma, flavour and aesthetic pleasure. From a personal and social perspective, learning to taste mindfully will build your confidence and open an exciting new world of discovery and when your curiosity is tickled, you will get to know your preferences and crave a deeper understanding of the endlessly fascinating practical and theoretical aspects of the world of wine.
Q: How can people enrol for CWA and what can they look forward to?
HD: Everyone is welcome to contact us through one of our platforms. The CWA website is the best place to start. We have just relaunched our core courses with bright progressive grading of levels to move through, and there are lots of other exciting plans in the works. Join our community and sign up to our newsletter, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I never need an excuse to talk about your wine education journey.