Newly-appointed head winemaker, Karlin Nel, and viticulturist at our Elgin farm Casey’s Ridge, Annette Human, are two supremely talented ladies with big ambition and vision to boot. We asked them a few questions to better get to know this dynamic duo responsible for getting our wines from grape to bottle. One thing to emerge clearly from the interview is that both have their feet planted firmly on Mother Earth while reaching for the stars!
Tell us more about your life journey so far?
Karlin: I grew up all over South Africa, my dad worked in the banking industry so we moved quite a bit. First Pretoria, where I was born, then Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria again and then Stellenbosch where the seeds of becoming a winemaker sprouted at a young age. After another move up north where I finished school, my passion for wine led me back to Maties where I obtained my BSc. oenology and viticulture degree in 2014. Shortly thereafter I joined Vrede en Lust as assistant winemaker.
Annette: I was born on a farm near Lydenburg in Mpumalanga. On my dad’s side I come from a long line of farmers, while my mom is the academic in the family. They raised me with the belief that nothing is impossible to achieve if you can dream big. I too studied at Stellenbosch University where I obtained my BSc. oenology and viticulture and then a masters degree in viticulture. From there I gained experience working on a number of wine farms across the Western Cape before joining the Vrede en Lust team.
What drew you to a career in the wine industry?
Karlin: I loved plants from an early age. Vineyards fuelled this passion and then wine took over! To be honest I did not have any real idea of what to expect when I started my studies – I had no agricultural background. But I loved the idea of creating a natural product that people could enjoy. Winemaking is such an interesting and stimulating career. You learn something every day, and working with the variables of nature keeps you on your toes constantly.
Annette: Given my background I was never going to settle for an office job, the lure of working in the outdoors and agriculture was always there. Viticulture piqued my interest more than any other career option and today I am glad to say that it turned out to be my calling.
What do you consider the most important attributes to be successful at your job?
Karlin: Determination, patience, a love for people. And the most important thing is passion, because if you love what you do it doesn’t feel like work! I feel winemaking is more an art than science, and art is meant to be enjoyed and appreciated after all. Because we work with nature we have to be patient and understand what the vines are telling us. Then you need determination to see you vision for the wine come to fruition. And finally a love for people is important because good teamwork and morale are imperative for running a successful cellar.
Annette: Planning, coordination and knowledge of your land and product. I think always giving your all is key and applying the basic principles to the best of your ability.
How do you like to spend your free time away from the cellar and vineyard?
Karlin: My free time and hobbies range from food to people. I love food, wine and people. To enjoy good company around a table with fine wine and food feels like the ultimate luxury to me. Apart from that I enjoy running, biking, anything involving the sea, browsing markets and live music shows.
Annette: I love spending time with my gorgeous husband and our three canine children. Also camping, mountain biking and good food, wine and whiskey!
What are your plans and aspirations for the Vrede en Lust brand?
Karlin: I would like to help grow the well-established brand even further and unearth all the potential offered by our vineyards. There are so many opportunities for growth in the wine industry, it is just about seizing those chances to build your brand. I learned a lot from my predecessor and mentor Susan Erasmus, not only about winemaking but also leadership and life lessons.
Annette: With regard to the vineyards, I strive to continuously improve the quality of the grapes through precision management of every single block and by doing this hopefully we can also ensure the sustainability of the vineyards for the future.
What is on your wine and travel bucket list?
Karlin: I have been fortunate enough to cross two ultimate destinations off of my bucket list, namely France and Italy. Everything I experienced during my visits there in terms of wine, food and travel were the stuff of dreams! Places I would still love to see include the USA for wine, and Greece and Scotland for food and travel.
Annette: If I have to single out a vineyard-related bucket list trip, it would have to be harvesting in the snow in Canada to make ice wine. I would also love to explore the Netherlands by bike, and visit Scotland and Ireland for the culture and whisk(e)y!