Q&A with Apprentice Winemaker Zoë

This week is the 10th National Apprenticeship Week (2017, #NAW2017) which brings together employers and apprentices from across England to celebrate the success of apprenticeships over the last decade. The purpose of this week is to encourage even more people to choose apprenticeships as a fast-track to a great career.

Last year Hattingley Valley partnered with the Worshipful Company of Vintners’ to create the UK’s first Winemaking Apprenticeship. The initiative is also supported by the WSET & Liberty Wines. This was an exciting development for the English wine industry and the position attracted shy of a hundred applications from people of all ages and backgrounds to venture into a life as a winemaker. At the end of the selection process we were delighted to offer the position to Zoë Driver.

Zoë joined Hattingley Valley from a role as a Travel Consultant for Trailfinders in Brighton. Prior to that Zoë spent 2 years travelling the world, visiting over 30 countries across 5 continents, which included cellarhand experience at Domaine Chandon in the Yarra Valley, Australia. Zoë has a degree in English & Drama from Loughborough and is a Certified Advanced dancer in most forms of dance.

It has been 7 months since Zoë joined the Hattingley Valley family and with it being National Apprenticeship Week we thought it would be a good opportunity to have a catch up with her and find out how she is getting on…

Q1. What does a typical day at work entail for you?
Every day is so different! At the moment it’s blending season, so we taste trials, and then blend the wine accordingly, by mixing the wines together in the tanks/barrels. We are also filtering the wines ready for bottling, alongside our usual jobs of riddling, disgorging, So2 additions and labelling. There’s also usually a lot of tank and barrel cleaning to be done too!

Q2. What have you learnt so far during your time as an apprentice winemaker?
I’ve completed my first English harvest, and become efficient at several stages of the wine-making process. I’m also learning a lot about the Viticulture side of things during my studies at Plumpton College.

Q3. Have there been any favourite moments in your job that stand out in particular?
Seeing the grapes coming in at Harvest time is pretty special; I love the smell of the freshly pressed juice! It’s great seeing where it all begins.

Q4. Are there any aspects in your role that you never expected to be doing in your job?
I feel really included in all aspects of the wine-making process – when we taste trial wines, my opinion is asked and taken into consideration, which is something I didn’t think I would be part of for a long while.

Q5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?
Lacking confidence when giving my opinion on a wine tasting is something I still struggle with, but I’m slowly developing my knowledge, and learning that there isn’t really a wrong answer.

Q6. “Blood, sweat & tears” – Do you agree?
100%! It’s hard, frustrating, laborious work – but seeing (and more importantly tasting) the end product makes it totally worth it.

Q7. What is the best thing about being a winemaker?
How varied the role is, how passionate the team you work with are about creating something amazing, and of course drinking a LOT of wine!

Q8. What are your ambitions for the future?
I would love to one day make my own wine – seeing my name as the Winemaker on the back of a bottle of a wine would be insane!

Q9. How has training to become a winemaker changed your life?
As clichéd as it sounds, I actually look forward to going to work every morning – I love what I do. On a personal note, I’ve got a lot physically stronger (my arms are actually getting some muscle!) and I’ve come to accept that I’ll never be glam – I’m always covered in yeast lees, my hands are cracked, and I’ve ripped every pair of jeans I own!

Q10. Do you have any advice for someone who might want to work with wine?
Drink as much (varied) wine as possible to develop your palate, go abroad and work a harvest (you will learn so much whilst having the time of your life) and ultimately go for it – you won’t regret it!

Q11. If you were a wine, what would you be?
Champagne – high maintenance, effervescent, and perfect for a party!

Q12. What is your favourite place to open a bottle of wine?
In the bath … Rock and Roll!

Q13. Wine & dine – what is your favourite match?
A nice Albariño with any fresh shellfish.

Q14. Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of wine with?
David Attenborough; he could tell me all his amazing life stories and I feel he is a man who would enjoy a glass of HV’s Blanc de Blancs.

Q15. What is your favourite wine in the Hattingley Valley range?
The 2013 Rose – beautiful colour, beautiful on the nose, and absolutely delicious!

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TeamRebecca Fisher