Home Food for Thought Columns These days they call me the wine ‘farm’acist

These days they call me the wine ‘farm’acist

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


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.

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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.

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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Heinrich Bothman
Heinrich Bothman
Heinrich Bothman is a certified Cape Sommelier, wine evaluator and judge. He has a decade’s experience in the wine industry. Heinrich studied Business of Wine at the Graduate School of Business of the University of Cape Town and also obtained his international judging qualification from Stellenbosch University.


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