Wosa marketing manager in Sweden, Maja Berthas, was recently named Wine Personality of the Year by Swedish and Finnish wine tasting organisation Munskänkarna. WineLand caught up with her and asked a few questions…
1. Could you tell me a bit more about where you work and what your responsibilities are?
I work from home in my apartment in the beautiful city of Stockholm! But it feels like I´m working from my phone most of the time since traveling around Sweden is a big part of my job. As the market manager for Wosa in Sweden I deal with a broad variety of things. Most of the traveling comes from my tastings that I´m hosting for different wine clubs around Sweden. I think I have seen every single small town in this long country over the past 13 years! When I´m not doing this I have meetings with importers, journalists, sommeliers and our monopoly buyer as well as having formal sessions with the South African Ambassador. I also put together a couple of bigger events per year such as shows, themed tastings or trade trips to South Africa. In these ways I´m trying to spread the knowledge of our beautiful South African wine industry to as many people as possible.
2. What attracts you to wine?
I will be honest and say that my work in wine didn´t come naturally at all. I studied Swedish Medieval Church Architecture as my major at University and always though I would end up in the art and culture sector. But as many things in life, things didn´t go as planned. I started to work as a chocolate taster and when people started to ask me about the best combinations of chocolate and wine I realised I had to do something. So I signed up for a sommelier education and soon understood that this was something I could dedicate my life to. I just love the many ways you can look at wine. It can be from a cultural perspective, an art perspective, an agricultural perspective, a historic perspective, a social perspective, geological perspective and gastronomical perspective, to name a few. That´s what makes it so interesting.
3. What are some of the constraints you face on a daily basis?
I know it may sound boring, but the most challenging factor must be the budgets! We are working with very limited funds, but that also keeps my brain active since I constantly have to come up with bright ideas on how to make the money go further. Sometimes it also feels like a clone of myself could be helpful, but I´m sure I have to wait quite a while before that´s possible.
4. Tell me about your most amusing (or most embarrassing) wine experience.
I was working on an exclusive food and wine pairing dinner together with a famous Swedish chef when I realised we didn´t have enough of one of the wines. So I basically had to walk down to the cellar and get myself a broad range of wines that I blended together in a big pot until I liked the flavour of it. I think we made up a “chateau name” of it before presenting it to the guests. Luckily it was one of the best pairings of that evening.
5. What does the title “Wine Personality of the Year” mean to you? And to Wosa?
I´m truly honoured and so happy with the award. And I promise it came as a great surprise. I was told to do a seminar on ethical trading at a food and wine show in Stockholm, but when I arrived it was a prize giving ceremony instead. My first reaction was: And I have worked three days on this presentation! Anyway, I think the recognition will help with getting more booked tastings, so I can keep on spreading the word about South African wine.
6. Is there a mentor or somebody else in the wine industry that you would like to pay homage to?
There are so many, but one of the people I really admire and that I want to send a big “Thank you” to is Madeleine Stenwreth (MW) who was the person recommending me for this position in 2004. Without her I wouldn´t have been sitting in this fantastic position working with such a stunning country as South Africa. She is also a good friend, a fantastic person and has an outstanding knowledge of our industry.
7. Please complete this sentence:
My favourite wine is enjoyed with friends and family on a lawn looking up on the beautiful mountains of the South African winelands. And it doesn´t hurt if it´s served by the magnum!