Kim Drake, Londolozi’s Procurement and Control Manager jokes that she’s become a part of the furniture. Kim who started working at Londolozi in 2009 is a well-known and well-loved face who has an incredibly impressive knowledge of wine.
Her role as procurement manager entails purchasing items for the operations of the lodge and trying to control items so that we don’t lose too much stock! She mentions that beverages are our fastest moving item. “We have to ensure that our guests always have suitable refreshments and that includes one of my favourite pastimes which is wine.
Something that I really enjoy about being involved in the procurement side of the lodge is that I am constantly kept up to date with the South African wine industry, its wines and how the industry evolves.”
Kim recently completed her Wine and Spirit Education Trust Level Three (WSET) – an accomplishment that has made her Londolozi family very proud.
I caught up with Kim to find out a little bit more about her journey at Londolozi, and what wine means to her:
Kate: You’ve spent 10 years working in the game park industry, why did you choose to base your career in a wilderness area?
Kim: I grew up locally, in White River in the Lowveld. Since I can remember I have been visiting the Kruger National Park as a family for holidays. My parents have a video from back then of us in the park and you can hear me as an infant squealing in the background. The bush was instilled in me from a young age. I have a love for natural surrounds, bush and animals – this is where I feel the most comfortable and at peace.
Kate: How did your passion for wine come about?
Kim: When I started at Londolozi, I was not a wine drinker at all. The exposure I had as a youngster was buying cheap, sweet wine. In those days my drink choice would have been a cold beer or a gin and tonic.
Shortly after I started working at the reserve, a sales representative from a wine farm came to Londolozi to give a presentation about sparkling wine. Our Operations Manager, Duncan MacLarty asked if I wanted to join the presentation. Being new and wanting to be involved in as much as I could, I was happy to attend. I found the presentation very interesting and this is where my interest in wines was sparked.
I regard Duncan as my mentor as he has always encouraged and inspired my path in wine.
I didn’t realize at the time that there were different varietals of wine. At Londolozi, there is a training programme called ‘Let’s Sell Lobster’ – a wine course hosted at the reserve’s Digital Learning Centre. I completed the course in 2012 and it sparked a deeper interest in me to want to learn more about wine. In 2013 I completed my WSET Level 2 which focused on wine regions of the world and labeling terms (how to read a wine label). This year I completed my WSET Level 3 – which again was a in depth study of wines of the world focusing on the area’s terroir (the growing conditions of wine including soils, climate and aspect) In a period of four days we had to taste over 120 wines and write detailed tasting notes on each one. We had to complete a theoretical exam as well as a practical exam which included blind tastings!
The WSET Courses in South African are taught by Cathy Marston of the Wine Centre – the only officially authorised WSET wine educator in South Africa. Click here to find out more.
Kate: What do you think wine adds to the Londolozi Experience?
Kim: It adds magic. Wine is more than just drinking an alcoholic beverage. Wine is about history, family and friends, it’s about celebration. And like Londolozi, wine is constantly evolving and only for the better.
Kate: What would you say is the best part of your job?
Kim: The best part of my work is being able to engage with fantastic people from all over the world in a wonderful environment and to be able to showcase the very best of South African wines.
Kate: What three local wines would you recommend right now and why?
Kim: As we are in summer, I love a glass of bubbles; my current choice, which has a lovely complexity and is easy to drink [preferably next to a swimming pool or around a braai (barbeque)] would probably be the Steenberg Brut Chardonnay.
As it can easily reach 40 degrees in the bush, there is nothing as refreshing as an ice cold, crisp and dry Sauvignon Blanc. I am currently really enjoying the Klein Constantia Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.
It is our rainfall period at the moment and days can be cool with some slight drizzle. However it is not cold. For these moments I enjoy a well-balanced and slightly chilled fruity pinot noir such as the Newton Johnson Family Vineyard pinot noir.
Kate: Do you have a particular food and wine paring at Londolozi that you enjoy?
Kim: I do. I love our Executive Chef Anna’s Seared Siracha scallops of Africa with the guacamole and sour dough bruschetta with the Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc. I find that the residual sugar of this wine beautifully counteracts the spiciness of the Siracha sauce and the acidity compliments the slight oiliness of the dish. The flavour combination is an explosion of sensations.
Kate: If you had one place where you would most enjoying sipping a cold glass of wine, where would it be?
Kim: Probably at home with my mother – sitting on the lawn on a Saturday afternoon whilst my father prepares a braai with his Bavaria in hand.
Kate: Favourite places to enjoy wine at the reserve?
Kim: Definitely out in the bush – there’s nothing like standing in the bush, surrounded by the beauty of nature, watching the sun go down while having a good glass of wine, with friends and eating Chef Anna’s tasty snacks.
Kate: Red or White?
It depends on the temperature out here. In summer white wine goes down well. Each wine has its own place and time. It depends on the mood and occasion and what we are eating. That said I could easily have a glass of bubbles at any time!
Kate: Do you have any advice for other young people who are interested in getting their wine qualifications?
If you have an interest in wine, drink as much as you can but do so responsibly. The more you taste, the more you learn, the more you explore, the more you taste. You will never know it all and wine can be rather daunting especially considering that Italy alone has over 3000 grape varieties. You will never know it all and you don’t have to know it all. What is nice about wine is that there are varying levels at which you can qualify. You may like me start out just wanting to do a basic course and end up with that feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you want to learn more and go further.
Kim, your Londolozi Family is very proud of your achievements. We hope that your knowledge of wines continues and that your love for it grows deeper.