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Local is most definitely Lekker: TOPS at SPAR Wine Show supports local wine industry & PYDA students

| Wine and liquor

South Africa’s largest and most loved travelling wine show – the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show – has taken the effects of the countrywide COVID-19 lockdown on the wine industry to heart by partnering with South Africa’s top wine educator, Cathy Marston, to decant two interactive online wine courses which present the ideal opportunity for wine farms to invest in upskilling their entry-level staff at a marginal cost with direct access to the only Stage 2 Master of Wine (MW) student in Africa.

The inspiration for developing these two courses is rooted in a desire to keep the conversation around wine going despite a ban on alcohol sales during the COVID-19 lockdown, thus ensuring the producers are still top of mind.

The resultant four live 45-minute online ‘Zoom’ sessions over two weeks create an opportunity to offer training to entry-level staff in the industry at low investment (the courses cost R295 per person). Downtime for staff is also minimal as each session starts with 30 minutes of theory and concludes with an interactive, practical 15-minute tasting session with Cathy. This direct and personal access to such a knowledgeable wine educator means that participants are able to ask questions and receive immediate responses in real time. The carefully crafted content is also specific to the South African wine industry.

Andrew Douglas, owner of TOPS at SPAR Wine Show, offered additional insight: “We are also cognisant of the challenges faced by students of PYDA (Pinotage Youth Development Academy) during this lockdown period and for this reason, we have sponsored 49 PYDA students on the second of our two online wine courses, ‘Local & Lekker – Focus on SA Wine’. PYDA is a work readiness programme which offers two holistic training programmes focusing on locally prominent industries. It’s a pairing made in heaven to offer these students our platform to ensure their education continues during a time when it would otherwise have halted altogether.”

Access to this online course is invaluable to PYDA students especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Executive Director of PYDA, Nikki Munro, expressed the academy’s gratitude for the sponsorship:
“As an NGO in Stellenbosch, PYDA develops young talent for employment and entrepreneurship in the wine, tourism and hospitality industries as well as other related sectors. Our goal is to make an impact by launching talent and since our inaugural class in 2013, we have successfully graduated 282 talented young South Africans into the wine, tourism and fruit sectors. Over 90% of them are gainfully employed within six months of graduating. Valuable partnerships, such as this one with TOPS at SPAR Wine Show, will ensure that PYDA remains an innovator in youth development by facilitating holistic and impactful learning for those who strive for change. This kind of contribution impacts directly on transforming the lives of young people and, in turn, their families and communities which we fully believe will effect transformation in South Africa.”

Uncertainty around when South Africans can re-stock their wine supplies was also taken into consideration. Course facilitator, Cathy Marston explains:
“These courses have been designed to ensure that participants don’t have to have the actual wines – or break out the really good stuff – in order to learn something, the course material is highly informative and is presented in a very interactive format.”

For further information, visit

Course Details:
TOPS at SPAR Wine Show’s online course, ‘Local & Lekker – Focus on SA Wine’, will run from Tuesday, 12 May to Thursday, 21 May. The course content offers a deeper understanding of the nuances of the Cape winelands. In sessions one and two Cathy explores and uncovers distinctively ‘lekker’ local white and red wines, showcasing their flamboyant flavours and savvy styles in detail. Session three puts a spotlight on sweet, fortified wines, and the fourth and final session is a celebratory showcase of South Africa’s finest MCCs and bubbles.

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