Three Nederburg cellar workers will be exchanging breakfast cereal for baguettes and waterblommetjiebredie for beef bourguignon when they leave for Burgundy, France, on an annual, international skills-building programme.
All residents of Paarl, the three are Dillon Ambraal, who grew up on the Nederburg farm and joined the winery 12 years ago; Sean Sampson, who has worked at the winery for the past seven years (full-time since 2021); and Nichole Fortuin, who became part of the cellar team in 2020. Not one of the three has ever left South Africa.
Nederburg is the only winery to have more than one cellar worker on the programme that involves ten Western Cape cellar workers in total.
The three leave early in September to spend five weeks each working at a different Burgundian winery. Their travel and learning opportunity stems from an agreement between the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and its equivalent in Bourgogne-France Comté.
The co-operation between the two regions was conceived in 2002 to accelerate professional and personal skills development amongst underprivileged agricultural workers. It has been running every year since except during the pandemic. Central to the agreement is a strong bilateral relationship between Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute in Stellenbosch and Burgundy’s Centre for Professional Training and Agricultural Promotion (CFPPA).
The Nederburg trio will be sharpening their skills in both winemaking and viticulture. The accent will be on cellar technique and technology, wine chemistry, the influence of oak on wine and on caring for oak barrels. They will also spend time at the CFPPA situated in Beaune, right in the centre of Burgundy.
Says Nederburg cellar master Samuel Viljoen: “This is a tremendous honour for Dillon, Sean and Nichole, who will be immersed in the heart of the classical winemaking world – the meeting point for some of greatest talents in wine making anywhere. To have three of the ten candidates selected from Nederburg is also a great privilege for our winery. They will have so much to share with us on their return.
“I can remember my first working trip overseas. Operating in a different cellar, being exposed to different protocols and techniques and engaging with people from a different culture was daunting at first but then so exciting, stimulating and stretching. The benefits are incalculable, from building your knowledge, confidence and discipline to broadening your mind. We are absolutely thrilled for them and immensely grateful to the organisers.”