Memories of my late mother in the month of May

WineFarmicist Heinrich Bothman and his late mother Nellie, father Henry, twin siblings Lilian and Luwane and sister Atnizelle.

WineFarmicist Heinrich Bothman and his late mother Nellie, father Henry, twin siblings Lilian and Luwane and sister Atnizelle.

It’s the month of May. The month of labour. The last month of autumn. The first month after the Easter holidays. The month of making your selection.

I truly love the month of all things autumn. When the leaves turn into various shades of brown, red, orange and yellow, it reminds me too of my favourite colours. White on burgundy with a Chardonnay Pinot Noir twist.

Those of us who appreciate Classical mythology would be pleased to know that in the ancient Roman religion and myth, Maia embodied the concept of growth, as her name was thought to be related to the comparative adjective “maius, maior”, meaning larger and greater.

We should therefore be asking ourselves what larger than life possibilities the month of May has in store for us. Growth is definitely one of them and we have the power to make our selection a powerful one.

That reminds me, working at the De Wetshof Estate in Robertson in the Western Cape has the perk of shaking the hands of influential and powerful leaders in the wine industry.

Bothman and Desmond Matthys, cellar assistant at De Wetshof Estate tasting the 2019 Limestone Hill Chardonnay vintage.

In the month of May I celebrated three years at the estate on Worker’s Day (with bubbly, of course), but the day before that I was called up to the boardroom like a high school teen about to receive his fate. As I climbed the stairs to the boardroom, I thought of the lyrics of “Lose Yourself” by Eminem: “Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip? Yo, his palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…”

The father of Chardonnay, oom Danie de Wet (as I call him), Johann de Wet (our CEO), Peter de Wet (the CFO), Bennie Stipp (our Marketing Director) and Izak de Vries (our winemaker) were all seated and behind them were twenty-something of 500ml bottles of wine samples. As I tried to figure out what was happening, oom Danie got my attention with an announcement: “Heinrich, you’ll have to pour for us as you would for a blind tasting, but we would like you to sit and discuss each and every wine with us.”

I tried to contain my excitement, but oh boy, was I honoured to sit down with the best and discuss the selections for the 2019 vintages. My dream just got real.

As I got ready to start the amazing job of deciphering in which order to conduct the blind tasting, I noticed that I could recall most of these terroir blocks’ locations. A step into the void of new discovery as I poured the first glass that contained a luminous amber liquid, seemingly tinged with an electric golden afterglow. The aromas hit first. They’re as bright and vital as the surroundings where this block was located. A tiny sip was enough to release the life force within.

Heinrich Bothman’s late mother Nellie Bothman.

Intense, yet refreshing sensations crowd into the mouth with such force and complexity that the brain can scarcely process them in any meaningful fashion. It was truly a light-bulb moment. I didn’t know it then, but it would revolutionise my life.

So, the tasting of about 30 plus wines continued well over lunch, but the discussions about each and every wine illuminated my thoughts and emboldened my dreams of owning a boutique winery even further.

My mom passed away earlier this year and the wounds are still fresh. She would have been so proud of the progress in each of her children’s lives, much like I witnessed oom Danie’s bond with his two sons. Priceless.

My mom always said that you always have a choice and once you realize the power of your choice, you have half of life’s recipe.

That is my recipe in life. Make your mark. Plan your choice.

Let us celebrate this month of May with the special people in our lives. Tell them that they are special. Don’t wait for the next opportunity. Do it now. Oh, and while you’re at it, let’s join the global hashtag of #MaySlay to post our favourite pass time with your lady or mom and tag @FoodForMzansi.

You might just win a case or two of freshly bottled 2019.