My introduction and growth with wine is a bit like the French term known as terroir defined as grape, soil and climate. In the first part, I am like the grape that is growing, the soil describes my education, training and knowledge, climate is my development and growth working in places like the UK, onboard The Yachts of Seabourn, South Africa, Argentina & Uruguay facing all types of topography.
I was brought up in South Africa in the heart of the Cape Winelands, a stunning wine town called Paarl, which is very close to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the Napa Valley of South Africa. Our house was next to a vineyard, which used to grow grapes for the famous KWV co-operative in Paarl. My brother Luke and I used to climb over the fence as kids and help ourselves to these looming cluster of ripe Chenin Blanc grapes. The grapes were grown on the high cordon system, so my brother had to climb on my shoulders to retrieve them. The farmer used to walk around the vineyard with his rottweiler, so once we built the wall round the house and heard a few gun shots fired in the air, we decided it was time to look for new adventures. I have now grown up and the vineyard is no longer there, but that year of 1990 will always be memorable, and that was the beginning of The Wine Experience that brought me all the way to Uruguay.
I was very fortunate to work for places like The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle in the Highlands of Scotland home to the great Andrew Carnegie & The Covent Garden Hotel in London, where I fell in love with Hospitality & Service, and got the opportunity to meet so many interesting people from all over the world.
It was an absolute privilege working for Majestic Wines in London. I gained a wealth of wine knowledge and experience. I started working at their South Kensington Branch as a Trainee Manager and quickly learnt the skills of the trade; and was fortunate to acquire my WSET (Wine Spirit Education Trust) Advanced Certificate. We offered competitive prices, excellent customer service and an impressive range. Majestic Wine operates as a mixed case retailer, selling a mixture of wine, champagne and spirits with a minimum purchase of six bottles. The company owes its expansion and success to a combination of acquisition and development. I have to say that this company really put me on the map as far as wine is concerned. They really know what they are doing and I was privileged to work with so many wine lovers from all over the world.
In 2005 I joined the Yachts of Seabourn as Head Sommelier. Here I was faced with a different challenge. I had to take all my skills that I gained on land and apply them at sea. I was responsible for the onboard wine selection, training and education of all those involved in sales and service of wine; organising and conducting of wine tasting seminars; and making sure the guests have the best experience and service.
I was fortunate to do some Freelance Work with Wineries in Mendoza before leaving for South Africa and working for the Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch owned by the British Diamond Merchant; Laurence Graff. It was very exciting time working for an Estate that achieved so much in a small space of time. Besides winning accolades for their Cabernet Franc Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc, The Lodge at Delaire was voted Best Grape Escape in the World in the Wallpaper Magazine.
I got the opportunity to work at the Fabulous & Sensational Playa Vik in Jose Ignacio looking after Food & Beverage which is owned byAlex & Carrie Vik who really have that original eye in creating Unique Properties way ahead of their time.
The idea for The Wine Experience started, when I realized that there was a big gap in the market for taking tourists on Wine Tours with no websites offering a service on a global scale. TWE is really like catching up with “old friends” and taking them on New, Unique & Unforgettable Adventures. My tours are always Private and many clients have described it like visiting wineries in the 70’s, where you will actually get to sit down with the owners in the winery or in their homes; and discover the passion behind the wines.
TWE now offers Wine Tours in South America in places like Argentina, Chile & Uruguay, South Africa, California (Napa & Sonoma) and in Europe in countries like France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. P