These days they call me the wine ‘farm’acist

How wine changed the way Heinrich Bothman viewed the world through a 750ml bottle

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The name is Bothman. Heinrich Bothman. It’s corny, right, but I’ve always dreamed about using this line since I first got introduced to the James Bond film series. Well, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that I am not James Bond, but I have been sipping Martini’s made from orange juice from a young age.

I realized many years later, as I embarked on the journey of all things wine, that the Martinis (“shaken, not stirred”) made me feel quite sophisticated. So, these days my friends call me the #WineFARMacist. It’s a long story.

A childhood picture of Heinrich Bothman (left) and his cousins, Desiree Pietersen. He says his only exposure to wine was taking the sacrament on Sundays in church.

I grew up in the Robertson Wine Valley. Being from a working class family, I learnt to appreciate the value of hard labour through education early in my life. My only exposure to wine was taking the sacrament on Sundays in church. Wine was a luxury in our house. I only knew beer.

Well, my dad has a great sense of humour and he had a picture of a horse drinking Black Label, eeeezing out Castle. Guess what I drank when I turned 18? These adversities shaped me for the future and gave me an advantage to enjoy life to the fullest. We were five children growing up in an “ekskuus-huis” (“pardon me home”). Now I can see the humour in it, almost like a vine’s first bud burst.

Fifteen years ago I started my career in the banking sector and yes, this is where I really got introduced to the intricacies of the beverage world. Before #hashtags evolved, every Friday was officially #DrinkDay.

I think that must have been the reason why I accepted a job at a wine estate in the Robertson Wine Valley. The perks were unbelievable. Need I say more. Free wine! The wine bug really bit me about five years ago when I started as a Tasting Room Manager at a small-scale boutique winery. I met an amazing winemaker whose enthusiasm is so contagious that it inspired me to start writing and learning more about wine.

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Heinrich Bothman

Currently I am a certified wine evaluator and judge. I hold a UCT qualification in the business of wine and recently I became the first Cape Sommelier in the Langeberg region. Somebody, anybody, pinch me…

I love food too, and my passion for cooking for one or a crowd led me to the Cape Sommelier qualification, from describing a very flinty fresh crispy MCC (Méthode Cap Classique, or champagne as we still call it in our “ekskuus-huis”) with toasty easy brioche, to reminding me of “sierings”, which was and still is a green stem plant with a yellow flower that is used as an acidifier in “waterblommetjiebredie” (water flower stew).

The world of wine has also captured my curiosity about food. I love local cuisine and often pair wines with great dishes.

I dream about weird stuff, like pairing dishes with a Halbtrocken Riesling. That’s German for a half-dry Riesling, a white grape variety. Now that I’m a Sommelier I have all sorts of fancy ways of describing the wine. For example, I have learnt that a Halbtrocken Riesling has a refreshingly clean, crisp green apple acidity with hints of petroleum. Yes, I said petroleum, as in “95 Unleaded, please”. It is the character of many Weisser Rieslings. The petroleum gives new meaning to the Afrikaans saying “Daardie ou is goed ge-olie”, which means that guy must be well-oiled or sloshed.

It might sound funny, but wine changed the way I viewed the world through a 750ml bottle that transports the goodness of the soil, climate and location to any imaginative mind, stimulating your senses. But wait, I have to run. I’ve built up an almost perfect photo album of my appetite, anyway.

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