FORGET about the shades. If Alexandra McFarlane represents the future of the South African wine industry, that future is so bright you’ll have to don a welding mask. The 22 year old Alex was recently announced recipient of the 2011 Dombeya Scholarship, the aim of which is to identify future wine industry leaders and to provide them with the opportunity to work and study abroad.
Just talking to her one gets the sense of a formidable wine person in the making, although I’d hate to place any further pressure on her young shoulders.
“The timing of the announcement of the Scholarship winner was not ideal ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ slap bang in my final year exams,” says Alex who will graduate with BSc in Viticulture and Oenology this year. “I missed more than a couple of hours of study due to the excitement, and it has not really had time to sink in how fortunate I am. My fellow students are currently wondering what they will be doing next year, as jobs for winemakers are not growing on trees. So to have a few months of ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+ëscholarship duties’, is a tremendous privilege.”
Scholarship duties entail travelling to Australia in February 2011 to work a vintage at Voyager Estate in Margaret River for six weeks. ,Following this, she will spend two weeks in South Australia, ?+¦???+¡?+¦????-, first at the University of Adelaide and then at Kaesler Wines in the Barossa Valley, -,,before returning to South Africa to work at Dombeya Wines who instituted the bursary.
“I may have a degree, but the real learning starts now,” she says, stating that the opportunity of getting stuck into Australia’s shiraz and Riesling grapes has her champing at the bit.
Unsurprising for such an intelligent lady whose articulateness and vocabulary belie her 22 years, there are no over-romanticised recollections of magic recalling when she was called for higher duty by Bacchus.
“I’ve always been interested in food and hospitality, and thought I may end up doing something cheffy,” Alex says. Her dad Norman, a well-known food, wine and general interest journalist who is always pottering in the kitchen may have been an inspiration here.
“However, living in Somerset-West I was drawn to the agricultural environment. We always have wine around the house, the winelands look pretty amazing, so why not give it a go. I’ve always wanted to have a job where I can be outdoors on the land and in nature.”
Alex admits to not immediately taking to wine as a beverage. “Let’s be honest ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ a young person’s first mouthful of wine ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ no matter what the label ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ is usually a bit disappointing,” she says. “All those tannins ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-+?-+. sharp acid ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ heck, why not have a gin and tonic or beer instead!”
As her studies took her on the wine voyage, however, there was no turning back. “Once you palate has accepted wine in all its styles and diversity, you become obsessed. My first real moment of ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+ëwowness’ was my very first French Champagne. I just took a sip and thought ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ if I can be part of an industry that makes something like this, I’m there!”
No surprise, thus, that Alex bluntly yet dreamily states: “I have to get to France. After all I’ve learnt about wine at university I have this need to visit great wine’s ancestral home.”
Besides being on the doorstep of a terrific future in the wine industry, Alex still finds time to indulge in her love of the theatre. Currently she is rehearsing for the role of Polly in the Hottentots Holland Dramatic Society’s version of Fawlty Towers which will premier later this month under the direction of that dad Norman again.
O yes, and if time allows, Alex also tutors high school students in maths and science.
But whatever she has to leave behind for her profession is going to be to the benefit of the South African wine industry. That’s for sure.
-,,,,,, Emile Joubert
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