Tshepang Molisana: Q&A with the Award-Winning Wine Writer
We caught up with Tshepang Molisana, an award-winning wine writer who has made a name for herself in a field dominated by older writers.
Tshepang Molisana is making waves in the wine-writing industry and changing perceptions on what a wine authority looks like. She is the recipient of the 2016 Veritas Young Wine Writer award, and has made a name for herself in an industry dominated by people much older than she.
On 12th February, Tshepang Molisana will be on a panel on Food Media Today at the first ever FOOD XX Symposium and Awards that aims to recognise womxn in the food industry (see which female food businesses you should keep an eye on in 2019). We caught up with her to learn about her journey.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since my big sister taught me how to read. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been sure of.
How did you get into wine writing?
I was working as a freelance writer to earn an income during varsity. One of my clients was a luxury travel magazine. Because travel in the Western Cape involves a great deal of wine tourism, my client gave me the opportunity to work on wine-related stories. In 2013, I was a Veritas Young Wine Writer of the Year finalist. Catherine Henderson of Classic Wine contacted me and encouraged me to pursue wine writing seriously. In 2016, I completed an Advanced Brandy Course through Van Ryn’s and the Cape Wine Academy. In 2017, I completed my WSET Level 2.
If you were a wine, what would it be?
Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Brut 2002. I’ve seen how these vintages are carefully stored in a treasured cellar in Reims, France. Reims was once a site of war and strife, and a memorial bust in the cellar honours those who took refuge at Lanson. The Noble Cuvée was disgorged in 2015, so it has spent 12 years aging on the lees and almost 18 months off. I feel represented by the patience and passion it took to create this delicate Champagne.
What's the most memorable wine you've ever tasted?
Tempos Vega Sicilia Unico Cosecha 2005, which I tried at Great Domaines last year. It’s the best wine I’ve ever tasted, if not the best wine I ever will taste. Spanish mastery. Pablo Alvarez from Tempos Vega Sicilia was described to us as ‘Spanish Royalty, basically’ by Derek Kilpin at Great Domaines, and this wine is magnificent in every way a thing can be.
What tastes remind you of your childhood?
Cashew nuts in my granny’s backyard, hot slap chips on a rainy day, sweet and sticky ribs, Chappies bubblegum, watermelon on a hot day, oranges after a netball match, chops and chicken hot off the braai, queencakes and scones from a bucket, my maternal grandmother’s pumpkin dusted with cinnamon, my aunt Sue’s potato salad, my aunt Sheila’s summer salads, gemere (ginger beer) and my mom’s ledombolo (steamed bread).
What is the most rewarding and challenging parts of being a woman in your industry?
The biggest reward is writing a story and having someone engage with the work then share their thoughts with me. Last year I spent some time on Kaya FM with renowned broadcaster Jenny Crwys Williams. Her ability to engage with her audience is effortless. It was hugely rewarding to have the opportunity to sit across the table in the radio studio with Jenny.
I think the biggest challenge is that in its current form, the publishing industry is not producing enough paid work for specialist writers. I wake up between 4 and 5am to work on stories I’ve been commissioned for and then go to my day job. At the moment, being a full-time writer is not feasible or sustainable. As a young woman, my task is to prepare for the next iteration of what the publishing industry will look like. I feel compelled to share opportunities with others, when possible. But I also feel worried that this is a very difficult industry to work in. Flying and driving to find wine-related stories is cost-intensive and it’s not a lucrative career. But the reward is the work itself, the amazing people I’ve met and the once-in-a-lifetime experiences I’ve had.
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What's your current favourite cultivar, and why?
I’m currently highly enthused by Chardonnay. It's so expressive of time and place. It’s also one of the foundation varietals for sparkling wine. I think that Robertson Chardonnay is exquisite, which is why the area is able to produce so many exceptional Cap Classiques. In the same vein, Elgin’s cool climate produces some marvellous Chardonnays. And it’s always exciting to taste the classics, like Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, Bouchard Finlayson, Glen Carlou or Hartenberg’s The Eleanor. It’s also exciting to taste the new classics, like Crystallum’s The Agnes and in the same way, it’s exciting to compare how Chardonnay from New World wine countries differs from Old World wine. I’m excited.
Which part of the world should every serious wine-lover visit?
Visit Epernay or Reims at least once. I think that the opportunity to understand the culture behind Champagne when you’re actually in Champagne is an extraordinary lesson. It also gives you an opportunity to learn about how the soils are graded – to understand the differences between Cru, Grand Cru and Premier Cru. You learn about the various villages that grow the grapes. It also gives rise to an understanding of good quality still wine and how it affects Champagne. You learn a lot while everything around you effervesces. What a scene.
What is your current favourite restaurant?
Grei at The Saxon. Chef Candice Philip and her team are excellent. It’s like watching a ballet performance. Everything is cadent – the food, the libations, the white glove service, the pared-down decor. Grei can see me anytime.
What would your last drink be?
My friend Doug hosted a tasting in his cellar where he asked this question. He gave me a bottle of Alain Jaume & Fils Domaine Grand Veneur Vacqueyras Grande Garrigue 2010 to pair with my last meal, so that will be the libation for my celebration. I told him I will start with the langoustine, sweetcorn and coriander soup from Grei. Then I will have grilled ribeye with a large side of fries for my main. To finish, my favourite cake, carrot cake.
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