Time to wine down with Lara Jordaan
Lara Jordaan is a Wine Consultant for fine dining restaurants La Mouette , La Colombe , Upper Bloem and Fyn. Her passion for wine is evident. Im very excited to feature Lara on my blog and share her experience with other women , looking at a career in the wine industry.
Meet Lara : I born in Namibia but discovered my passion for wine in Stellenbosch as a student. I worked on numerous wine estates but settled for the world of fine wine retail. Here I learned everything about local and international wine brands. Today I am a sommelier and a wine consultant in restaurants.
For my readers, could you give me a brief description of what a Wine consultant does?
I am still trying to figure out the definition of a wine consultant. I think it is something that we created because we do not want to be tied up. We want to be flexible to do different things. For me personally, it is someone that offers a service to a restaurant without them having the fixed cost/expense of a food and beverage manager, or even a sommelier. You train the staff in service, create an interesting and balanced wine list (taking the style of food and clientele into consideration), do the food and wine pairing (if necessary), give training on cocktails and spirits, give advice on the glassware (and general bar hygiene) and train the staff to become wine advisors in their own right, and how to become confident in selling wine. I also make the effort to take the staff to wine farms – into the vineyards, cellar and then a tasting. It is so important for them to see where the wines are made etc.
What drew you to a career as a wine consultant?
After studying law and a few stints at wine farms I started working at Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar. I ended up working there for almost 11 years. Caroline Rillema was a great mentor for me personally and she really taught me almost everything that I know today (especially respect for the product). I have always wanted to open a wine bar, so I figured that I must gain experience in restaurants. I resigned from Caroline’s and started working at La Mouette and La Colombe. I eventually joined Upper Bloem and Fyn. I had too much fun doing what I was doing so I postponed my dream of having a wine bar. So, I guess the career as a wine consultant chose me.
What do you like the most about your chosen career path?
That I get to do what I love every day. I really enjoy working with people and I can do that while selling something that I am extremely passionate about. Also having the opportunity to taste so many different wines and meeting the people behind it.
In a male dominated industry what has been your biggest challenge?
I have always surrounded myself with very strong women, so it’s never been a real challenge for me in my workplace. I think the real challenge in general is when you need to convince men that your opinion is valid and that they need to treat you as an equal. We all have different attributes and we can all learn from each other. They tend to think that they know everything (and can do it better) and that is probably THE biggest challenge.
What advice do you have for young women who want to pursue a career as a wine consultant?
To taste as much as you can. Go to trade shows, tastings, and wine farms. Reach out to people in the industry. Ask for advice. Never be scared to ask. Be a sponge! People will admire you for it. We all started somewhere. They will also respect you if you can back your opinion with knowledge and experience. And experience can be absolutely anything.
Have you noticed any trends emerging in the wine industry that you would like to mention? (canned wine, recyclable packaging etc)
To be honest, I have not followed all the new emerging trends. I am very old school (which is probably not always a good thing). I do not like/drink wine that is not in a bottle etc. Do not get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it – it is just personal preference. Luckily, we are all quite different so there’s a following for every style of wine (even different packaging).
What is your favourite “everyday drinking wine”
I have got a few! La Bri Chardonnay, De Kleine Wijn ‘Kreatuur’ Red Blend, Glenelly Cabernet Sauvignon, Boschkloof Bordeaux Blend, Carinus Syrah - drinking more red now 😊
Do you have a favourite “celebratory” wine that you would buy for a special occasion?
Again, you are asking me for a single favourite wine? Can I mention a few? Restless River ‘Ava Marie’ Chardonnay, Kaapzicht ‘1947’ Chenin Blanc, Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon, Vilafonté ‘Series M or C’ Bordeaux Blend, Thorne & Daughters ‘Wanderer’s Heart’ Red Blend. And many more!
South Africa has a rich wine heritage. Which wine pops to mind when we talk about a proudly South African wine?
I do not think there is a single wine that we should highlight. This whole wine industry of ours is proudly South African!
Do you have any questions for Lara about wine and her career as a Wine Consultant?
Keep an eye on my blog as I feature more wonderful women in the wine industry.