INTERVIEW WITH CLARISSA HAGEMANN, WINE EXPERT IN SOUTH AFRICA
As a certified wine expert, Clarissa Hagemann fulfilled her dream of a new, fruitful life in South Africa. When Clarissa packed her bags a few years ago and set out on the journey to the country of contrasts, but also of hospitality that was almost absurd by German standards, she left her well-paid job in the pharmaceutical industry, her family and, above all, her good friends Riesling and Kerner back. Everything for the dream in South Africa. Clear goals and a decent thirst were and are still the drivers of the wine-filled vision in the new home. Exclusive wine seminars are just as much on the agenda at Clarissa as organized trips to the South African winelands.
MORITZ: HELLO CLARISSA: I READ THAT YOU GIVE WINE SEMINARS AND ALSO ORGANIZE TOURS TO THE WINELANDS. WHAT MOVED YOU TO MIGRATE TO SOUTH AFRICA AND SPECIALLY TO CAPE TOWN?
Clarissa: My mother died in 2007. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 10 years and definitely knew I had to do something different in life. But what should I do? Another pharmaceutical company? It was the same thing again, just with a different name.
A desk job was out of the question for me. The longing for Africa flared up again when my best friend reminded me of my friends who had emigrated to Cape Town 10 years earlier. They own a hotel in Cape Town and I decided to take a sabbatical for 3 months and work there over the Christmas period which is peak season here as anywhere in the world. On top of that, rationalization was taking place within my pharmaceutical company - I received a severance payment, which then served as start-up capital.
I fell in love with this country and this city and met a lot of people in a very short time. Today they are among my closest friends.
Back in Munich, relatives and friends asked me: “What impressed you the most and what did you like the most?” My answer came immediately: “The endless expanse of the country, the feeling of being able to breathe deeply – the feeling of having arrived.” Likewise the unbelievable friendliness and openness of the people, who don't even have a fraction of what we have in abundance... You will be helped everywhere - whether by authorities, people on the street asking for directions or at the side of the road with a flat tire. You are never alone and lost. Of course, the climate is also crucial – warmth and sunshine for three quarters of the year. I always say the difference between Germany and South Africa is that I wear stockings for 9 months in Germany and no stockings for 9 months here...
When I think about the beginning I remember. how difficult it was for me to fly back to Munich. I can still see it in my mind's eye: the last sunset with a view of Table Mountain on the Winery Seidelberg, the first sunrise at Cape Town Airport (at that time, Air Berlin still flew direct to Munich at 7.20 a.m.). It was then that I realized I had “lost” my heart and soul to South Africa.
MORITZ: HAS THE LOVE OF GRAPE JUICE ALWAYS EXISTED?
Clarissa: In Munich I always enjoyed cooking for friends, buying good wine and always trying out new restaurants myself. What could be nicer than enjoying good food and a glass of matching wine with friends? For me it is the epitome of enjoyment. Interestingly, here in Cape Town I had repeatedly read wine books and bought books about the local winelands.
When time allowed, I drove to the vineyards, had lunch there and soaked up the atmosphere. The diversity, beauty and uniqueness of South Africa's wineries have always fascinated me. South Africa can look back on more than 350 years of wine history. In general, I am fascinated by history and politics. So I always found it exciting to follow the history of the individual estates, their owners and their generational succession.
MORITZ: HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THE ADVENTURE OF WINE?
Clarissa: Initially, full of enthusiasm, I attended two courses at the local Cape Wine Academy. Until then, I only knew what grape varieties there were and that I preferred drinking red wine to white wine. In the courses I was able to further train and develop my palate and my taste buds for good, high-quality wines.
MORITZ: HOW DID THE IDEA OF OFFERING SEMINARS AND WINE RIDES?
Clarissa: As far as the wine tours are concerned, I first completed my tour guide certificate for Cape Town and the surrounding area. I had managed a 5-star guest house here for 3 years. I love being in contact with people. As part of my tour offer, there is of course also the tour "Winelands, half day oder full day“.
For me, the courses were so interesting and impressive because I learned a lot about wine, brandy, sweet wines, MCC wines (Méthode Cap Classique - the local name for champagne - the sparkling wine can only be called champagne if the grapes come directly from Champagne ) have learned. The idea of wanting to pass on all the in-depth knowledge in the form of wine seminars/wine lectures came up during the course. I thought it would make sense to introduce German holidaymakers to South African wines and their special features with blind tastings. With a final test consisting of 2 parts, I then received the certificate as a wine expert.
MORITZ: HOW DO YOU CHOOSE THE VINEYARDS FOR YOUR RIDES?
Clarissa: Through my years of leisure trips to the Winelands, I of course know numerous wineries, their special features, their history, their background and their flagship wines. Depending on the agreement and focus, I select the appropriate estates for a visit with wine tasting for my customers.
I've found in general that often the small unassuming wineries produce top quality wines while the much lauded, praised ones often only produce average wines.
I ask in advance whether the guests have any knowledge of wine. There are wineries that offer award-winning cuisine as well as a wide selection of both red and white wines. Other estates only have a few red or white wines on offer, but they are excellent. Depending on the guest, I drive to the estates individually and try to present a wide range of very different wineries in one day.
The problem is always the distance. Since often only one day is booked with me, I usually drive to the areas of Paarl, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch or stay here in Cape Town around Constantia. Of course there are plenty of other areas with excellent wines. You would then either have to recommend that to the guests if they were to travel deeper into the Winelands on their own, or book a second day.
MORITZ: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WINERY AT THE MOMENT?
Clarissa: Oh, that's really very difficult to say and almost impossible to answer.
Each Winery is individual and has its own identity.
The atmosphere, the ambience, the interior, the style, whether it's a traditional Cape Dutch Winery or the modern, with a lot of upmarket style created, each one is so unique. For example, I love this at the end of my Cape tour Steenberg Wine Estate with the Tastingroom Bistro 1682. Super stylish! You can do both wine and champagne tasting. The tasting room is open until 6 p.m. and you can enjoy excellent “star tapas” until 8 p.m. if you haven’t had enough for lunch.
My second tip is this Boutique Wine Estate Bartinney. Hardly known, but a fantastic view, very tasteful. The entrance as in a nursery - herbs and proteas everywhere. Bartinney therefore also carries out a special tasting, wine combined with the respective herbs. This refines the taste buds for the respective grape variety. Unique! Annandale is also a little insider tip, as it offers very old red wines at affordable prices. Audacity also because it has some wines in its range that are produced with no added sulfur, only with rooibos root as an antioxidant.
I have a few other favorites that I always love to show off on my tours. These fall into a cross section of diversity - however the following are mainly located in and around the Cape Town area: (say Constantia, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek)
- Delaire Graff, Cavalli, Leeu Estate, La Grande Provence, House, Antonij Rupert, Steenberg,
For me the upmarket stylish ones.
- Boschendal, Satisfied, Looking Out, Zorgvliet, Groot Constantia, Plaisir de Merle, Webersburg, Muratie, Annandale as the traditional Cape Dutch
- Bartinney, Thelema, Kanonkop, Stellenrust, Stellenzicht, Stark-Condé, Oldenburg, Uva Mira, Ridgeback, Le Riche, Lanzerac, Ken Forrester, de Morgenzon stand for excellent wines.
- Jordan, Guardian Peak, HiddenValley, Rust en Vrede, Delheim, La Motte, Moreson, Mont Rochelle are great places to enjoy lunch
- The best place to try MCC's is at Simonsig, Haute Cabrière, Le Lude, Moreson, Graham Beck, Colmant,
- You can get excellent olive oil, often combined with a tasting Morgenster, Tokara, La Bourgogne, Satisfied
More and more wine estates are also offering trips to their vineyards. Almost as a small safari, because they often have wild animals on their property. Other estates can be blended. So you can create your own wine, coffee, olive oil or even tea.
Many wineries are also happy to answer questions about wine and its production during a tour of their cellars.
Of course, these are by no means all of the favorites. If you weren't named, please forgive me - it was just spontaneous and gut reaction.
MORITZ: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE LIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA IN ONE SENTENCE?
Clarissa: In one sentence? Oh, that's hard... Of course it's also a very personal question, every person feels differently. But for me:
Cordial, warm (not only in terms of the climate), uncomplicated, easy, liberating... For me personally, the quality of life and attitude towards life are better than in Germany. You need significantly less, you are very happy and satisfied with less. At the moment I can't imagine going back to Munich, my hometown.
It is not for nothing that anyone who has been here and caught the "virus" will always come back here.