During the month of August, Drakenstein Tourism is hosting a series of #winewednesdays to showcase the Women in Wine of the region. One of the impressive women we were privileged enough to meet, was Izele van Blerk, winemaker for the KWV flagship range The Mentors.
Izele hosted a private tasting in the Mentor’s room and transported us into a world of wine and passion and unbridled enthusiasm. The Mentor Cellar was established in 2006 as an experimental cellar to inspire and mentor a younger generation of winemakers. Izele started at KWV in 2010 and is currently the only senior female winemaker at this globally renowned brand. This stand-alone cellar allows her to be uncompromising in terms of quality, letting wines develop their own identities and creating an evolution of styles.
“My passion for my job is infinite – I always want to do more, experiment more and chase the next challenge. My job is multi-faceted and I have the opportunity to be creative during the winemaking process, but also have to be meticulous in terms of quality control, tender and competition submissions and tight deadlines. I love to be out in the field to find out where our consumers are and what they are thinking. You basically need three different personalities to do this job!”
Izele was almost lost to the winemaking industry due to her athletic prowess. She played tennis for South Africa and went to America on a sports bursary, but her dreams of Wimbledon glory were ended abruptly by a serious knee injury. She returned to South Africa and was accepted to study medicine. However, her discomfort around blood made her re-evaluate that career choice and after her first year, she changed to BSC Viticulture and Oenology.
Working in a predominantly male environment, Izele has learned that it is important to stand up for yourself and to accept recognition where it is due. “You cannot let yourself be intimidated by other people. Be yourself and be honest. Pay attention to other people and make time to really listen. Never hesitate to ask questions or to have your own opinion,” she explains.
For the tasting, Izele selected the Grenache Blanc, Petit Verdot and Pinotage from The Mentor’s Range. “I’ve been working with a core team for the past eight years and we’re like family. The nature of our cellar allows us to continuously try something new and different. We don’t have to be scared to experiment constantly with the different varietals to highlight their unique qualities and have the freedom to push winemaking boundaries. If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough,” concludes Izele.
For more on #winewednesdays, read our blog at www.paarlonline.com