Jamie Williams, our assistant white winemaker, is featured in the July issue of WineLand, as part of the magazine’s #30Under30 Club of talented, young, up-and-coming South African winemakers. The introduction and Q&A interview appear below, as featured in the publication.
Nederburg assistant white winemaker Jamie Williams (27) has always loved science, but she also has an artistic streak. “Most industries give you the opportunity to be either an artist or a scientist,” she says. “But both appeal to me and I believe wine is the perfect fusion of art and science – my two passions combined.”
Jamie registered for a BSc degree at Stellenbosch University, specialising in molecular biology and biotechnology. In her second year she discovered wine biotechnology and became totally hooked. She believes wine is like a living, breathing organism that can show both a good and bad side depending on how it’s being cared for and used, and if it were up to her, winemakers would instead be called wine doctors.
What initially attracted you to the wine industry?
My initial fascination with wine came from an admiration of the fruit. How could something as simple as a grape be so versatile and capable of being transformed into a luxury item such as wine? Unfortunately, while growing up on the Cape Flats, I was exposed to the dangers of alcohol and winemaking as a job was basically unheard of. It was only when I visited family in Paarl that I became aware of another side of wine as many of these family members worked in winery tasting rooms or as seasonal harvesters.
What excites you about the industry?
The wine industry offers so many platforms where incredible knowledge and skills are shared among winemakers and industry professionals. I love experimenting and interacting with others in the industry. What also excites me about working with wine is that each vintage is unique. This is where the artistic side of me can be freely expressed. It’s my responsibility to make the best of what the vintage and Mother Nature provide. It’s an exhilarating feeling!
How do you see the future of the industry?
I’m so proud of our wine industry and believe it can support a great future for many. But we face many challenges, including some new ones brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic currently sweeping the globe. We’ve come a long way and shown what we’re capable of. The world has taken notice. Now we have to shift to a higher gear.
What skills does the new generation of winemakers need to succeed?
Be as hands-on as possible. You can’t fully control wine, but you can keep it healthy and steer it in the right direction. Don’t take any opportunity for granted. If someone invites you to their wine estate for a tasting, go! Networking is very important.
Who are your mentors?
My mother first and foremost. When I’m going through any situation, whether it be work or personal, she always knows exactly what to say. She’s so skilled at giving sound advice on how to approach almost any problem. I’m a firm believer in God. This gives me the strength and creativity to achieve what I set out to do. I’ve also learnt a lot from winemaker Elmarie Botes, under whom I’ve worked for some time. I also find it inspiring to hear about and read the stories of other female winemakers, especially those of colour who’ve carved out incredible career paths for themselves in the South African wine industry.
What would you like to achieve one day?
To play an active role in giving those from underprivileged backgrounds a chance to grow and prosper in the wine industry. I believe this industry can be broadened by exposing more people, especially of colour, to its joys and advantages.
What are the biggest challenges for you as a winemaker?
When going to events for work or just going out socially people still find it hard to believe that a petite, young woman of colour could be a winemaker. I want to change that narrative.
Transformation is an ongoing process that our industry is slowly coming to terms with.
As published in WineLand magazine’s July 2020 issue, as part of its ’30 Under 30 Club’.