A match made in Africa: white wine and an 11-year old

A match made in Africa: white wine and an 11-year old

Can you imagine being only 11 years old and already know that you want to have a career in the wine industry? That’s the experience that Danielle Coetsee had as she watched her uncle work in the vineyard and the winery. 

And when she got older and applied to university as an engineering student, she realized that she was making a mistake – wine was still calling her. So Danielle took the big step of pulling her engineering application back and going for what she wanted to do, which was learning how to make wine.

Now, as a wine-maker who specializes in white wine and who has also been responsible for sparkling wine production, Danielle is looking forward to many years of creating wine that delights consumers at Boschendal Winery in South Africa.

Listen in as Danielle talks about her favourite parts of being a wine-maker and just how all-encompassing working in the wine industry can be… here at Wine Behind the Scenes.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • Learn about the fundamental elements that make up the wine industry, the ethics, good practices, and the system you should account for so you continuously foster a trust relationship with your clients, customers, and all stakeholders in the wine industry.
  • Find out the most rewarding experience of being a wine-maker that inspires you always to hold the highest quality standard in wine production.
  • Discover how infusing art into the science of winemaking makes all the difference in the taste of wine and the character, personality, and style of a particular vineyard and winery.
  • Hear about travel opportunities you can have being a wine-maker and brand ambassador at the same time.
  • Know how female representation makes waves in the industry and what valuable contribution they bring to the wine space.

For a lucky few, there is a definitive moment when the world quietly slips away, and all that remains is an inspired instant between you and the wine that leaves you awestruck. For others, it’s a special memory that confirms your love for wine. For Danielle Coetsee, White Wine Winemaker at Boschendal, it was a combination of both. At just 11 years old, Danielle’s uncle inspired her to be a wine-maker with his tales of studying winemaking and viticulture from Elsenburg. Yet, it was not until Danielle’s first harvest and tasting through some particularly memorable wines that a deeper love for winemaking blossomed: “Reaping the reward after months of hard work is a profound moment for any wine-maker. I’ve also been majorly influenced by some incredible wines I’ve had the privilege of trying, including a 2010 Château de Myrat Sauternes Grand Cru, a 2007 Costers del Siurana Priorat Miserere, a 2013 AA Badenhorst White Blend, and of course, the 2008 Boschendal Jean Le Long”. 

While studying viticulture and oenology at Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute, Danielle had her first encounter with the camaraderie and openness that exists within the wine world. This spirit of community and willingness to share knowledge motivated her to continue with her vocation. Before Boschendal, Danielle was the wine-maker and farm manager at a boutique winery for several years, and it was during this formative time that Danielle cemented her approach to winemaking. “It may sound super cliché, but it still rings true – you need good grapes to make good wine. You can make bad wine from good grapes, but you cannot make good wine from bad grapes,” she explains. Beyond that, she believes that meticulous attention to detail and a “kick-ass palate” are cornerstones to sound winemaking. 

Get in touch with Danielle Coetsee:

Topics Covered:

01:59 – Describing the beautiful place she lives in South Africa

04:31 – An exciting story of what piqued her interest in wine and winemaking, when and how it started

08:53 – A university in South Africa that gives training and qualifications to become a wine-maker

09:41 – Talking about female representation and what contribution they bring to the wine industry

12:07 – What her career path in the wine industry was like after earning her degree in winemaking

15:23 – Getting through all the three different areas of winemaking and now focusing on the white wine winemaking

17:04 – Foundational elements of the wine industry and the critical system around it that accounts for the trust relationship

20:07 – What she considers the most rewarding part of being a wine-maker

22:07 – How is winemaking a blend between Science and Art?

24:22 – Travel opportunities brought about by her work as a wine-maker and brand ambassador

26:48 – One thing that draws her most to winemaking and how she sees herself staying long-term in the wine industry

28:42 – What awaits you at the Boschendal vineyard and winery other than the wine you can enjoy

30:07 – Looking forward to talking about blending wine in a future episode

Quotes from Daniell Coetsee:

“My initial first selection for university was engineering because that’s the appropriate kind of adult decision to make, but I just couldn’t.”

“I became interested in wine-making before I was even legally allowed to drink wine. So I didn’t drink wine at that stage. I was 11 years old.”

“When I found I had a permanent position I was just over the moon.”

“We want people to know that and feel comfortable with the fact that what they’re having in their glass is produced well and in the right manner and that they can trust what information is given to them.”

“When it’s harvest time, and you’re going in on a Sunday afternoon. And it’s quiet, and you get into the winery and a lot of the wines fermenting, and you get those fermentation smells, and you’re checking the fermentations. They just look amazing and show all these aromatics; I think when it goes from juice to wine stage, it is a very special moment in between.”

“A moment that I most enjoy is when you are with a group of people, either doing a tasting or seeing people taste the wines, and you see that enjoyment. And I think nothing really compares to that.”

“I think at the end of the day, your kind of internal compass always points true north. And I think that is, and will probably always be winemaking.”

“There’s never a dull moment. It’s always exciting. There’s always something happening.”

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