Savvy Sisters – a fun loving wine club
11 February 2015
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Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, time to chat some more wine here today. My name is Brad Brown, it’s good to have you with us and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome Kirsten Ulbrich onto the podcast today. Kirsten, all round wine lover, doing some amazing things outside of the winelands, which is quite nice to see and hear. We’re going to find out more about that right now. Kirsten, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, thanks for joining us today.
Kirsten Ulbrich: Thanks for having me Brad.
BB: Kirsten, before we get into what you do, let’s find out a little bit about you. Where did your journey into wine start, where did your love for wine begin?
KU: Well, I am a mother of a two year old –
BB: Enough said!
How does anyone get through without wine?
KU: A nice line, absolutely, I don’t know how anyone would get through this without wine, but to be fair, I did start being involved in the wine industry in about 2012. I started a wine group for my friends, I just thought that it would be great for us to get together on a regular basis. I also came from a background of hosting bachelorette parties and things like that.
I knew that women needed a reason to get together on a regular basis to catch up with their friends, just to forget about what was going on at home. It was actually my husband who then suggested, well, why don’t you start a wine club, what a fantastic reason to get together. Just discover more about wine, but also catch up at the same time and that’s how Savvy Sisters was born.
BB: How long ago was it that that came into being, that it was formalised under the name of Savvy Sisters, when was that?
KU: That was in about 2012.
BB: So it’s been going a few years now. You’re Johannesburg based, do you purely operate in Gauteng or you’re pretty much all over the show?
KU: Our regular wine groups happen in Gauteng. Every now and then we have the opportunity to take wines out to Nelspruit, Pretoria, well Pretoria forms part of Gauteng, but it’s a bit of a drive for us. So we do try and get wines out there a little bit, it obviously all depends on logistics. I know that whenever we bring wine and it’s time for the girls to get together, there’s absolutely no problem in getting ladies to come and attend our event.
BB: I love that Kirsten. As far as the wine scene in Johannesburg goes, we often chat to wine makers and people who are very entrenched in the industry, based in the Western Cape mostly, what’s the wine scene like in Johannesburg in particular?
Up here people like to be introduced to wine
KU: Well, sjoe Brad, you put me on a spot here. It’s not much different to the Western Cape. I think the Cape has a lot more access to different kinds of wines, it’s quite normal in the Cape to take a weekend and go and taste wines in different estates.
In Jo’burg you’re kind of relying on somebody else to introduce you to the wines. It’s unlikely that you’ll go to Pick ‘n Pay and look for something really different. People often tend towards the things that they know. Also in the restaurant, you’re quite unlikely to purchase a bottle of wine that you’ve never tasted before and you don’t know if you’re going to like it, if it’s going to go with your food.
So, from that perspective, wine club is really nice because it’s introducing ladies to wines that they ordinarily wouldn’t try, little wine estates that you’ve never heard of and that they possibly never would get to hear about, unless someone actually says, ‘hey try this wine and let’s put it with this food.’ From that perspective it certainly is different and I think Jo’burgers also just buy a lot of wine. We really do like wine and we put a lot of money into it.
BB: Talk to me about how you find the wines that you present to your club essentially. You obviously do love wine, but how do you go about finding the wines that you go, you know what, this is well worth sharing.
KU: I try to seam my events. I try very hard not to have single estates at my tastings. I kind of think that’s been done, you can go to an estate based tasting at quite a few restaurants throughout Johannesburg and so Savvy Sisters is about showcasing different wines that fit the same kind of occasion.
At the beginning of this year we did a showcase, we called it Fifty Shades of Red. We had six different red wines, all slightly different colour profiles and they were all from different estates. The ladies could kind of compare them to one another. Whereas if you’re having all the wines from one estate, it doesn’t give you a very broad perspective on what is out there, what you might like.
So, once I’ve decided on a theme for Savvy Sisters, I then go and have a look what wines would fall into that theme, who is particularly trendy at the moment and obviously who are some of the unknown ones where people haven’t really heard of them. Who would need a push in Jo’burg, who could do with a little bit of publicity as well.
BB: I love it, it’s fantastic. I was just reading up as you were saying that about, you’re a northern Jo’burg group, been going since 2011 essentially, are you finding that the core of that group has pretty much stayed the same since you started or is it always changing from a group dynamic perspective?
A great mix of new and old
KU: I have some ladies who have been coming since the very first wine club that we had and then I also have ladies who come and go, who think, this scene sounds really interesting. I love white wines and salad, I’m going to come to that one and then for the next year they don’t come again because somehow what we’re offering doesn’t quite fit what they’re interested in.
I do find that once they’ve been, once clients have been, they do come back again and I have new ladies joining all the time. What’s quite interesting to me, particularly in northern Johannesburg is that I have quite a mix of people. Lots of groups of friends coming together and then I also have single ladies coming, particularly ladies who are new to Johannesburg and perhaps they’ve been transferred here for work. They don’t have a family and they’re looking to meet new people.
Savvy Sisters provides a really nice platform to go out and meet new people. You don’t feel like you’re going out on a date or you’re speed dating, it’s just ladies there, you’re there to kind of chat and find out more about each other and to me that’s been really interesting; how the mix of those two kinds of people all meet together at a Savvy Sisters wine event.
Great chance to grow your wine knowledge
BB: I think it’s fantastic and as far as a level of wine education, so to speak, obviously somebody just starting their wine journey will have a different level of understanding to someone who has possibly been to many of these sorts of events. How do you juggle that? From an out and out newbie who is keen to find out more about wine, to someone who knows a fair bit, do you find that balance difficult to maintain or is it something that comes pretty easily?
KU: It is difficult to maintain and also ladies get very loud. So I always find that it’s quite tricky to keep the ladies how really want to know about the nose of the wine and the flavour profiles and all of that, to balance that with the ladies who are really there just to chat up with their friends and taste something new. That’s all that they want from the evening. We try and limit the tickets to 40 ladies, we don’t have too many people, too much of a broad spectrum there.
From next year what we’re going to be doing is offering, the normal Savvy Sisters, come with your friends and discover some new wines and then for my ladies who have been coming for quite a while and now have quite a broad knowledge of wine, we’re going to be offering more exclusive smaller group testings. Where they’ll really meet the winemakers and they can ask them lots of questions and broaden their knowledge that way.
BB: That’s fantastic. If people want to find out more about Savvy Sisters, how can they go about it? Is it a case of just getting onto the website and seeing what events you’ve got planned, going, you know what, we want to go to that one, purchase the tickets and arrive, is it as simple as that?
How to join Savvy Sisters
KU: So it’s savvysisters.co.za, they can complete the contact form, their email address will be added to our database. They’ll be sent an invitation, invitations are sent out four weeks before an event, so they can start planning, just put it in their diary. That’s another thing that women like, they like being able to schedule something in their diary.
Then just kind of stay in touch with us and see what we’re offering. Something that I really like is when someone comes to me and says, oh, I tasted this wine, we really should do a tasting around this. That really is very interesting to me and also people who’ve experienced new restaurants. We try and take Savvy Sisters to a new restaurant every month. It’s impossible for me to go and try all the restaurants in Johannesburg and so when clients come to me and say ‘I had a really great experience at this restaurant, it would be perfect for wine club’ that for me is the absolute best.
BB: I was also just clicking through your website and stumbled across the wine and chocolate pairing, that sounded like it was a fantastic night out.
KU: Yes, wine and chocolate was very popular, both in Johannesburg north and for the Benoni crowd. Wine and chocolate was actually quite difficult because you can’t just put any chocolate with wine, chocolate is quite, as you know, high in sugar and sugar tends to strip wine of its flavour profile.
The chocolates that we sourced is called DV chocolate and it’s a bean to bar manufacturer in South Africa. In other words, they get their own beans and they complete the whole chocolate making process right until it becomes a bar. What’s interesting about that chocolate is they don’t add any flavourant to it, which made it really good with wine.
The flavour profile of the chocolate comes purely from where the chocolate bean was grown. So much like the flavour profile of a wine, relies on where the grapes have been grown. The chocolate profile is the same, it depends on where the bean has been grown.
BB: I love that, and you also do tea tastings, tell us a little bit about that.
KU: Tea tastings, well, tea is very trendy, I don’t know if you know that Starbucks has recently bought a tea shop in America. Tea has become very trendy and we have a luxury tea brand called Tea Forte, it’s a beautiful brand, all the tea lovers out there should really come and check it out.
They’ve got a huge variety of flavours, but besides their tea pots and their cups and all the things that go with drinking tea are just so beautiful, it just makes you want to make a beautiful cup of tea and sit on your couch and just have the 10 minutes to yourself where you can forget everything.
Tea tasting is really just like a wine tasting. We come to your house, if you want, and we have six different teas that we brew freshly, we pour them for the ladies, they taste them, we’ll chat about the flavours, where the teas come from and then they can purchase the teas afterwards. It’s a really novel concept, it’s something great for a bachelorette or a kitchen tea or something like that. It’s also increasing people’s awareness about really good products that are out there on the market.
BB: Without a doubt. Kirsten, I think that is amazing. The website to get to if you want to find out more about it, savvysisters.co.za, we’ll pop the link into the show notes as well. Kirsten, thanks so much for your time today, much appreciated and thanks for telling us about Savvy Sisters. I think you might be getting a couple more members through Old Mutual Live. I think it’s something that a lot of people are eager to take part in and I think what you’re doing is amazing, well done.
KU: Thank you very much Brad, I look forward to seeing all the ladies there.