WILLEM’S JOURNEY IN WINEMAKING
It has been a fast-paced journey for the Black Oystercatcher’s Willem Pietersen. At just 31, he has grown from general farm worker to Assistant Winemaker at the Black Oystercatcher.
Now Willem has just successfully completed his third Cellar Worker Training Programme (known as SKOP 3) from Wine Training SA. He received his certificate at a gala function in Paarl on Wednesday (18 May).
This training has been instrumental in his quick development. But according to Willem, the best training has been on the job. “When I started here (at the Black Oystercatcher’s cellar), I didn’t really know what I was doing, but Dirk (Human, founder of Black Oystercatcher Wines) showed me a lot. Everything that I am doing today, I learned through working here.”
Willem grew up in the small Overberg town of Riviersonderend. His mother, Ana, worked as a domestic worker in the town and supported Willem’s career until her death last year. After leaving school, Willem initially worked on a farm in the area.
“I didn’t enjoy this very much. So my brother, who was working at the Black Oystercatcher’s vineyards, encouraged me to join here.”
From 2004, Willem moved from vineyard worker to the farm’s tractor driver. By 2012, Willem had become Dirk’s right hand in the cellar. Today he is involved in every step of the winemaking process – from the harvest through to the bottling, labeling and boxing stage.
“I feel very proud when I taste the wines, to know I’ve been part of this process.”
Living on a wine farm next to the vineyards has also given Willem, his partner Adie and their 11-year old daughter, Maurishia, access to a wholesome lifestyle and nature.
“The Black Oystercatcher has changed my life a lot. I used to live in the town (Bredasdorp), but there it didn’t always go so well. Everyone knows how it can go in a town – it can be quite tough. So when I started to work here, then I came to live here. There I can already see good happened to me.”
Willem’s journey still has a long way to run. “I didn’t finish school, so that sometimes makes it difficult for me. But I hope in five years from now to be making my own wine. I have come so far already in winemaking, that is my next step.”