*Pictured, from left to right, is Sydney Mello, Etienne le Riche, Joaquim Sa and Morgan Steyn
Valuable experience, decisiveness and an intense love for sparkling wine stand out for Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé, Sydney Mello, as the greatest gifts of his 3-year mentorship experience. Sydney is one of 24 oenology and viticulture graduates to have come through the ranks of the Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé Programme.
This highly regarded programme helps aspirant winemakers and viticulturists unlock their potential through skills development initiatives which are made possible by the support of major sponsors such as Amorim Cork. Since 2015, Amorim has supported the Protégé Programme with donations totalling more than R320 000.
“As a partner of the wine industry, Amorim Cork shares the Cape Winemakers Guild’s commitment to excellence – not only in wine, but also in the quality of human capital. By committing to the Protégé Programme, Amorim aims to contribute towards the development of skilled and dedicated individuals who may otherwise not have had the opportunity to partake in an industry in which we feel they could make valuable contributions,” says Joaquim Sá, Managing Director of Amorim Cork South Africa.
While growing up in Mahwelereng in Limpopo, Sydney’s curiosity about the intricacies of winemaking motivated him to make the journey to the Cape Winelands. After graduating from Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch, he enrolled in the Protégé Programme and has never looked back.
“The Protégé Programme has provided me with a place of learning from the most brilliant minds in the wine industry. Not only do I see it as preparation for becoming a winemaker, but also as practical experience in making important decisions in my future career,” says Sydney, who is spending his final year in the Programme alongside Etienne le Riche, one of the founder members of the Cape Winemakers Guild.
Thanks to substantial support from sponsors, as well as funds raised by Guild members themselves, one of the initiatives empowering Protégés is valuable international experience acquired in some of the world’s most renowned wine growing regions.
For Sydney, travelling to France last year was a once in a lifetime opportunity: “It was my first time abroad and the experience that I gained participating in an international harvest was priceless. After spending time in Burgundy, we travelled to Champagne. Here, surrounded by bubbles, I felt most at home. We visited big champagne houses as well as smaller producers, giving me an insight into the wonderful world of sparkling wine. After graduating from the Programme at the end of this year, I would love to specialise in the production of Méthode Cap Classique for its complexity and mystery.”
Given the opportunity to bring his bubbly dreams to life, Sydney crafted his very own MCC in 2017, as making their own wine is an essential part of the Guild’s Protégé Programme. Special Protégé wine presentation packs, including Sydney’s sparkling wine, will be auctioned later this year at Gala Dinners in Johannesburg and Cape Town and at the Silent Auction that takes place during the annual Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction on Saturday, 29 September 2018. The money raised will be ploughed back into the Protégé Programme. Over and above their financial contribution, Amorim Cork also provides all cork closures used for these Protégé wines.
Second year Protégé Morgan Steyn, of Riversdale in the South Western Cape, will be crafting his own wine this year. He believes that the Protégé Programme not only helps him to become a good winemaker, but also a good leader. “I see myself working with others to strengthen the wine industry in South Africa,” he says. Morgan is spending his year with Morné Vrey as part of the team at Delaire Graff.
Established in 2006 under the auspices of the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Development Trust as a flag bearer for transformation of the South African wine industry, the CWG Protégé Programme gives accomplished graduates the rare opportunity of working side by side with members of the Guild. By cultivating, nurturing and empowering promising individuals to become winemakers and viticulturists of excellence, the Protégé Programme plays an active role in the long term health and sustainability of the industry.