The Richness and Reward of Mentorship

Everyone needs at least one great mentor in their lifetime. A mentor can help you to pivot your career or, through their wisdom, assist you in navigating your personal journey, sometimes even both.

These role models might cross your path deliberately, but sometimes they are unexpected – such as a family member, friend or neighbour who offers a guiding hand, and, many times, those who are not around anymore continue to provide inspiration.

I realise all too well that mentors are not perfect. They fail too. And I think it’s exactly from this wisdom gained through trying hard, and failing hard, until persistence collides with destiny, that their counsel becomes invaluable.

My father, Rydal Jeftha, has been my mentor ever since I can remember. Through his life journey he has encouraged and guided me. Whilst job shadowing my father, he countless times offered incredible nuggets from his life experiences that have shaped me as a person and as a winemaker.

No longer with us, but certainly not forgotten, is Dr Julius Laszlö. He was the cellar master at Die Bergkelder from 1978 to 1992 and heralded as one of South Africa’s most influential winemakers.

I so wish I could have spent a moment with him! The knowledge and inspiration he left behind is still vivid in our winemaking today. I know he was a mentor for many in the industry and in a way, his love for winemaking lives on in many of my colleagues who knew him well and still treasure the knowledge passed on through their encounters.

He played a pivotal role in changing the face of the South African wine industry, bringing modernity to our winemaking. He was one of the key protagonists in upgrading the quality of vineyards at the Cape, sourcing new vine material and focusing on the cultivation of noble wine grape varieties. He also pioneered the use of small oak barrels for the maturation of red wines at a time when mostly larger-sized vats were in vogue.

Dr Laszlö leaves an enduring legacy and I so wish he could join us for a glass of the Fleur du Cap Laszlö Bordeaux-style blend, created in his name. The wine is truly special – crafted from the finest noble varieties that Dr Laszlö helped to establish in the Cape Winelands. Each vineyard block was harvested after numerous visits to taste the grapes and evaluate the degree of ripeness.

This full-bodied blend epitomises the Fleur du Cap philosophy of meticulous selection and regional excellence, allowing the unbridled expression of the grapes to dictate the flavour profile.

This wine, and the life of Dr Laszlö, reminds me of one of the most important lessons my father taught me whilst job shadowing him at the start of my winemaking career.

He explained to me that the entire winemaking process is a continuous progression of adding value:

  • When you plant a vine in the hole you dug, and you irrigate, fertilise, prune etc, you’re adding value to the plant.
  • Once the grapes are ripe, by picking the grapes at optimal ripeness, de-stemming, crushing and sorting them, you add value to the grapes.
  • When you ferment the juice and start the process of crafting the wine, and in some instances also mature the wine in oak, you add value to the juice.
  • When you bottle the wine with a beautiful label and packaging, you add value to the brand.
  • When a customer buys this wine and opens it at a restaurant or their home, the wine adds value to the occasion.

One must never forget to add value to the lives of the people you encounter along your life and career journey. Because true mentorship is not shown in a trophy or a standing ovation. It is shown in the successes of those you have deliberately or unconsciously inspired, years after you have shared a moment with them.


Tammy Claassen
Fleur du Cap Winemaker


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