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5 Minutes with Kelly-Marie Jacobs, Zonnebloem's New White Winemaker

Kelly-Marie Jacobs has been appointed the new white winemaker at Zonnebloem. We chatted to her about memorable wines, her favourite cultivar, and more.

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Kelly-Marie Jacobs, Zonnebloem’s new white winemaker, has deep connections to Stellenbosch: her grandparents are originally from the town, where they first met at the train station.

But it was a magazine article about winemaker Debbie Thompson, who is now cellar master at Simonsig, that initially sparked Jacobs' interest in the field.

'I always wanted to be an actress,' says Jacobs. 'I have 10 years of speech-and-drama experience! But when I read the article about Debbie, I immediately knew that winemaking was my true calling. I have learned since and through my travels that food and wine really bring people together. It’s a shared moment of pleasure that fuels conversation and envelops you in a blanket of sensory bliss.'

She adds, 'This, together with the inspiration from winemakers who never stop experimenting and innovating to shape the wine industry and bring the full potential of the vines to life, has become the centre of all that I do.'

Kelly-Marie Jacobs | House and Leisure

Jacobs grew up in Kuils River, where she still resides, and obtained a BSc in Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch University directly after completing her matric at Settlers High School. She worked at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture from 2013 to 2016, under the Elsenburg Agricultural College, where she was involved in harvests, and lectured in the fields of oenology, biochemistry and wine marketing, and arranged exchange programmes with the CFPPA wine school in Beaune, France. 

Towards the end of 2016, Jacobs joined the Zonnebloem team as Assistant White Winemaker, and she says her recent promotion to take lead responsibility for the white wines is both incredibly exciting and very humbling.

'I am driven by my vision to continue the growth within and beyond the realms of Zonnebloem’s rich history as one of South Africa’s oldest wine brands. The wine needs to speak to and reach as many people as possible. It’s one of the few wines that can introduce a novice to the wonderful world of wine as it equally enchants more seasoned wine drinkers and collectors.'

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Kelly-Marie Jacobs | House and Leisure

5 Minutes with Kelly-Marie Jacobs

If you were a wine, what would it be?

Pinot Noir – an elegant grape, demanding in the conditions that she is grown in and complex, but when treated properly, yields a powerful wine that can bring even the most renowned wine connoisseurs to their knees.

What's the most memorable wine you've ever tasted?

A 21-year-old Gamay Noir, at a winery called Château des Jacques, in the Beaujolais region of France. The winemaker worked with biodynamic principles and believes in preserving life within the vineyard, as this 'life' and sense of nature filters down into the wine, creating something spectacular.

What tastes remind you of your childhood?

A freshly toasted cheese sandwich, with a cup of rooibos tea. Being under the blankets at my grandparents' house, while it rained outside – I don’t think I have ever felt safer than in moments like those.

Do you have a secret talent?

Yes, but it’s a secret.

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What's your current favourite cultivar? 

Sauvignon Blanc. I really want to strive to make an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc and master the cultivar. The wine may be a little mainstream, but the grape has a lot of elegance and class going for it – bold, yet refined.

Which part of the world should every serious wine-lover visit?

The obvious answer is France, but my opinion on that has recently changed. Developing wine-producing countries like Argentina and Brazil are doing an amazing job in terms of quality and being able to bring their sense of place into a wine.

What is your current favourite restaurant?

Bouchon Bistro. The food is fresh and tasty, and they have an exceptional wine list, as well.

What would your last meal – and last drink – be?

Toasted cheese and a cup of rooibos tea! 

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