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5 Reasons why Stellenbosch Wineries Should & Do Welcome Students onto their Farms


20 July 2017 [group_audience]
Well-known wine writer and lecturer Cathy Marston shares why Stellenbosch wine farms should and do welcome students into their tasting rooms. If you're a prospective Matie, wondering if you'll feel at home in the winelands, read Cathy's post to see why the winelands value you and your friends. 
Last year, I had the interesting job of being a guest lecturer on overseas wines at Stellenbosch University. I say ‘interesting’ because if you don’t live in Stellenbosch (and I don’t) it is perfectly possible to spend lots of time on Stellenbosch wine farms and in its surrounds without realising that the town’s raison d’etre and the very heart of its existence is, in fact, the students who make up the university and the various other academic institutions in the town. 
Waaaaaaay back in the day, I also attended university in a town dominated by its academic status where traditionally there has always been rivalry, distrust and dislike between ‘town and gown’. I’ve had more than my fair share of curses (‘bl**dy students’) and seen servers go tight-lipped as six of us ordered ‘2 coffees and 4 tap waters please’ and here in SA I’ve seen many a tasting room manager sigh resignedly, pour the tiniest portions possible and generally be unwelcoming and unfriendly when a group of students turn up at the tasting room door.
I’m sure many of them have good reason to doubt that students can be genuine tasters and buyers as opposed to freeloading partyheads, but here are a few reasons why I suggest wine Stellenbosch wine farms should and do take them seriously and accord them the same respect as every other guest.

1. The freeloading partyheads of today are the buyers of tomorrow. It seems obvious but every high-net-worth lawyer, doctor, accountant whose wallet share you’re chasing today, started out life as the grungy, acne-ridden student you’ve just chased off the premises yesterday. Students are like Father Christmas and they’re going to remember who was naughty and who was nice to them when it comes to filling up the cellar of their mansion in Clifton.

2. Why wait till tomorrow? – students can be the buyers of today as well. Not every student is poor - many of them manage to hold down jobs as well as studying, which I think is pretty impressive. And besides, there’s always the chance that Mommy and Daddy might help out from time to time and then whose wines are they going to choose (see point 1)?

3. Looking good! Not that I’m being ageist or anything, but it isn’t going to do your winery any harm if they first thing they see as they drive into the farm is a group of young, happy, healthy, smiling, good-looking kids enjoying the best years of their lives whilst drinking your wine. 

4. Social media. If you’re struggling to get your head around Tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking and the like, then let your customers do it for you. Stats show that young people are more likely to believe what they read on social media than in any form of advertising or promotional activity so make it easy for your student guests, give them free wifi, greet them with a smile and you might be surprised at how your sales increase.

5. You can’t tell a genuine winelover simply by looking at them. And that’s a fact. When I taught the Oenology students last year there was a mix of ‘really interesteds’, ‘politely listenings’ and ‘has she finished yet and opened the wines?’ – pretty much as you would expect. But there was nothing to tell who belonged to which group until they opened their mouths (or, alternatively, closed their eyes and began to snore) and spoke up – neither clothes, creed nor colour distinguished one group from the other.

Somewhere, out there, is the next Michael Fridjhon, the next Jancis Robinson, the next Professor Eben Archer. And, as sure as students are always thirsty, what goes around will come around again at some point so make sure you give everyone a chance and you’ll get what you deserve.

Follow Cathy Marston on Twitter here

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