While riding the tidal wave of everyday work life, we seldom get to know one another a little better. During #WomensMonth, Wendy Petersen lifts the curtain for a sneak peek into her life and journey in the wine industry.
Wendy has been instrumental in the sustainable growth and development of black-owned brands and -farms in the wine industry since her appointment as Transformation Operations Manager of the SA Wine Industry Transformation Unit (SAWITU) in February 2019.
Transformation programmes have gained momentum under her leadership and with her technical and marketing experience and her love for mentoring, she helps wine entrepreneurs in various aspects of their businesses. “I love the space I’m working in, enabling small enterprises to develop. It’s as if all the pieces of my career puzzle are falling into place with my current position.”
Wendy’s career in the wine industry dates back to 1993, when she started working as laboratory technologist for Monis, a division of the previous Stellenbosch Farmers Winery, in Paarl. At the time, positions like these were just opening up for people of colour. In 1997 she was promoted to the head office in Stellenbosch as part of a small expert group doing innovation and product development on some of South Africa’s most successful alcoholic brands such as Amarula Cream Liqueur, Bainskloof Whisky, Hunters range, Savanna, Vawter, Esprit, to mention a few. Wendy’s career development is based on obtaining various qualifications in product development, packaging technology and also project management.
After a brief period at KWV, Wendy was offered the position as Group Manager for New Product Development at Distell in 2005. She also worked at DGB as Product Development Manager for almost seven years from 2009.
After completing her BComm Marketing degree in 2017, Wendy wanted to expand her marketing experience and joined Wines of South Africa (WOSA) in the position as Manager of International Projects. This strategic career move gave her in-depth knowledge of wine brands and international shows and events, which included ProWein and CapeWine.
Throughout her career, and especially as a young woman, Wendy was fortunate to have gained valuable experience from a few strong value-based white male role models in the wine industry, who encouraged her throughout her career development and was very open to share their knowledge.
However, the women she admires most in the industry is Joyene Isaacs, former Head of Department of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and now Chairperson of the Agricultural Marketing Council. “I like Joyene’s leadership style and the fact that she’s direct, honest, very loyal and most importantly, that her word is her honour. These are characteristics that I completely relate to and also reflect in my personal and business life.”
Wendy enjoys a wide range of alcoholic beverages, depending on the occasion, the cuisine or her mood at a particular point in time, but her wine preference is a good Cab Franc, Chardonnay, or Petit Sirah, which she gladly shares with her most favourite person, her husband Stewart. “Pairing the right wine or drink with the right food gives us so much pleasure and creates many special moments for Stewart and me.”
The two also share a love for wine tourism experiences. “We are blessed to live within 30 minutes of the most beautiful wine regions, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Wellington and of course Paarl, which is right on our doorstep.” But they also gladly venture further to the Hemel-en-Aarde and Elgin Valley regions, as well as Robertson and the Swartland, depending on their adventurous mood. “We appreciate every wine region for what it is and what each one unique offering is”
Wendy is a doer and nurturer by nature, and instead of words to live by, she lives by actions, which is handling all people, no matter who they are and where they come from, with respect and dignity. She believes that living with your values, morals and faith every day and in all aspects of your life, forms the basis in which good decisions can be made. “These are also the values that Stewart and I instil in our children, Sydney and Storm”.