WINE IS THE GREAT EQUALISER
Nadia Barnard joined Waterkloof, a biodynamic wine estate in the Western Cape, as assistant winemaker in 2009. In biodynamic agriculture, an emphasis is placed on organic farming and the ecosystem of which the produce is a part. After five years of hard work and hard learning, the 29-year-old was recently appointed chief winemaker at the estate. She is one of many young winemakers who are making their mark on South Africa’s celebrated viticultural industry and at international wineries in desperate search of South African winemaking expertise.
Like many young South African winemakers, Barnard worked in Australia, New Zealand and France before putting down roots in the Western Cape, where most of SA’s famous wines are produced.
At Clos Malverne in Stellenbosch, another 29-year-old winemaker, Suzanne Coetzee, has taken over the winemaking reins from her predecessor and husband, Charl Coetzee. With a growing number of women taking over the delicate winemaking process locally, Coetzee believes it is becoming easier for female oenologists to have a successful career.
“I’ve been told in an interview that the way I look counts against me because winemakers need to be tough and workmen need to have a respect for their leader,” she says, but quickly adds, “I am much tougher than many men.”
Despite the industry’s growing acceptance of female winemakers, Coetzee still f inds that female winemakers need to prove themselves before being granted the same opportunities as their male counterparts, but this didn’t stand in the way of her success.
“You also don’t need to go around as if the world owes you something,” she says. “If you are true to yourself, the right person will spot the potential in you.”
Barnard agrees. “Grapes have no gender and winemaking is a technique. Whether the wine was made by a man or a woman should not be relevant to the end product. I have always been treated equally in the industry where the most important contributing factor is your passion for what you do. If you have that you