Q&A with Candice Nassen: new assistant winemaker at Tokara

by | Nov 30, 2021 | Lifestyle, Wineland

Candice Nassen, Assistant Winemaker at Tokara

Candice Nassen joined the team at Tokara in November 2021 as Assistant Winemaker to Stuart Botha. She’s a double graduate with degrees in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Cape Town, and Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Stellenbosch. Candice has gained extensive winemaking experience at acclaimed local and international cellars, completing vintages at Cederberg, Boekenhoutskloof and most recently at Boschkloof.

How did you get into winemaking?

After completing my first degree I wanted to continue my studies. I saw Agricultural studies as an option and thought it could be interesting, since I felt I had the personality for it and would enjoy it. I was accepted and started my journey at Elsenburg. It was very foreign to me, as I was the first person in my family to be involved in agriculture. I developed a keen interest in vineyards and winemaking and started doing a lot more wine tastings and reading up about wine. All these factors lead me to develop a love for wine. It’s very difficult to explain, but I just had a feeling I was on the right path! I absolutely love what I do, and I have not looked back since.

How did the international experience shape that journey?

I had the opportunity to harvest at Cave Yves Cuilleron in the Northern Rhône valley a few years ago. It was one of the best experiences because I got to meet new people and I experienced a whole new level of ‘wine culture’. It was so important to have these international experiences, because it broadened my perspective and at the same time made me love and appreciate South African wine so much more. I came back with a new hunger for winemaking, packed full of new experiences and knowledge that I couldn’t wait to share with the industry.

What prompted you to enrol for the Business of Wine course?

There are many different facets to wine and winemaking. I was involved with the physical and people aspect of wine so I felt I should increase my knowledge of the business aspect too. I received a bursary from the EverGrow foundation, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to enrol in the UCT GSB Business of Wine course. It was one of the best decisions I could have made. The course encourages critical thinking, teamwork, and business minded approaches to real life situations. At the end of the course you don’t only leave with powerful knowledge and practical skills, but also with a whole new network of support and like-minded people.

Who have been your biggest inspiration/mentors?

That is a very difficult question because I have met some wonderful people on my short journey in the wine industry thus far. First and foremost, my parents have worked extremely hard to allow me the freedom to choose a career path I felt so strongly about. They, together with my husband and family, have provided the support and encouragement from the sidelines – always backing me no matter what. I have had mentors throughout my winemaking journey from my studies at Elsenburg Agricultural College throughout my three years at the Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé Programme, as well as connections I’ve made through The Business of Wine Course.

Has your first degree come in useful?

Yes, I think education is important to broaden perspectives and increase knowledge. I majored in Psychology and Sociology before studying winemaking, and in my current job I still make use of the principles from my first degree to assess situations and deal with them appropriately. It comes in handy regarding the people aspect of winemaking.

What excites you about working at Tokara with Stuart Botha?

Stuart is a wonderful person with a great love for wine which shows in his attitude to all things related to the winery and winemaking. Tokara has its own brand identity and never falls short of excellence. I am so excited to be associated with a brand that not only makes good wine but acts as a destination to allow for a holistic experience. I’m still very new, but I am really looking forward to my time at Tokara and especially to learn and grow alongside Stuart.

What was your most memorable wine experience?

Where wine is involved, I feel it is always memorable. I have had so many great experiences from working at amazing wineries and learning so much to having the opportunity to travel to France. Even though these things are etched in my memory, one thing that stands out is the saying, “in order to make great wine, you have to taste great wine” (source unknown). International wine tastings have taught me a lot and allowed me to develop my palate and become a much better winemaker.

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