Tasting the best wines is a great job

What is the most interesting aspect of your job?

I regularly visit various wine producers, from top-end estates to mass producers, and taste their wine.

The really exciting part is when you discover an exceptional wine that you know will appeal to the market.

Do you travel a lot?

Yes, I do travel often but then mostly short distances.

Shoprite's head office, where I'm based, is in Cape Town and the main winegrowing areas are all within a radius of 150km or so from the city.

But then there are a great many producers and I believe it is important to taste wines where they are made.

What is the process involved in selecting the wine?

One has to keep one's ear very close to the ground to pick up any trends developing in the market, not only locally but also overseas.

In selecting our wines we also look at how a particular wine fared in major competitions such as Veritas, the Michelangelo International Wine Awards and the Old Mutual SA Trophy Wine Show.

We also look at how it is rated in Platter's South African Wine Guide before coming to a decision.

Travelling around I often come across very special wines that are still in the tank and that were not made in sufficient quantities to justify marketing them on their own.

I buy those wines, often from very exclusive estates, and add them to our Oddbins range, each with its own bin number.

These wines often sell for as little as half the price you would have paid had they been marketed under the estate's brand.

Our Oddbins range, with their unpretentious appearance, offers exceptional value for money and is increasingly becoming a label of choice for our regular wine shoppers.

Where do most of the wines you buy come from?

We buy our wines from a wide spectrum of local producers.

We also have a number of imported wines to allow discerning customers to compare the best of what we can produce locally with what is available internationally.

Is wine tasting a hobby of yours?

Yes, very much so, and an expensive one too.

Is your choice of what wine to buy solely based onthe popularity of the wine?

We stock primarily well established brands with a wide appeal, but also offer wines from estates as well as small, specialist wine-cellars.

Due to the volumes we buy we are often able to sell estate wines for a lower price.

What is the most interesting or beautiful place you've travelled to to taste and buy wine?

Locally, Stellenbosch because of its scenic beauty and cultural richness. Overseas would have to be Tuscany because of its hill towns and age-old history.

When wine tasting, do you spit or swallow?

It is customary to spit but when you come across a really exceptional wine you sometimes accidentally swallow.

What is your most embarrassing wine moment?

My wife and I were tasting red wine at a well-known cellar and when I spat the wine out, I missed the small hole of the spittoon and the wine sprayed all over the hostess's white top.

I was so embarrassed that I bought a case of their expensive wine.

Are expensive wines necessarily better?

Price is frequently used as a measure to position a wine and to stress its exclusivity.

Some people believe the more expensive the better, but you should trust your judgment and buy what you like.