WCellar expert's best-kept secrets

Woolworths senior wine buyer Rebecca Constable tastes wine for a living (tough job!) and she’s always happy to chat about her greatest new discoveries with WCellar members.

What's your background in the wine biz?

I started my career as a graduate trainee technologist for Sainsbury’s in the UK. I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Chile and Argentina, where I truly fell in love with the people, the land, the passion and the unique combination of science and art that is the magic of the wine industry. In 2009, I moved to South Africa and started at Woolworths, where I moved into product development. That’s when I met Ivan Oertle and Allan Mullins, both amazing people who guided and mentored me. I am now one of the specialist buyers on the wine team, which is a combined role of buying, selecting and marketing.

What do you love most about your job?

I never stop learning. The wine business combines my scientific, logical side with my creative side, and I meet amazing, passionate people who love their craft. I love nothing more than launching a wine and watching it fly. Currently, my focus is on WCellar, a platform for our customers to explore the world of wine. Wines are like books. They all have a story to tell, and I love being able to tell those stories to our customers and inspiring them to try great wines. 

Your favourite Woolies wine of all time?

Oh my hat! May I only choose one? I will always have fond memories of the Woolies Single Vineyard Block 2A Chardonnay from Paul Cluver. The whole team harvested the grapes, so we were involved from start to finish. It was an award-winning Chardonnay, typical of the Elgin region, with elegance and restraint. This is the Woolies difference – being involved in the blending of the wines, forming partnerships with our suppliers.

My current favourite range is the Signature Series, which is what our former Single Vineyard range has evolved into. It’s a true collaboration between winemakers and Woolies to bring you the best expression of varietals at great value. I’m a big lover of bubbles, so recommend the Signature Cap Classique Vintage Brut  as a must-try wine.

What are your go-to bottles at home?

The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon is made to impress. I never want to run out of that, along with our own blend of Steenberg Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc (it doesn’t  break the bank when you need to serve a crowd). I also keep Domaine Grier French Rosé imported from France as my go-to for lazy weekend lunches, while my hubby can’t live without the Saronsberg SGM and Bellevue Malbec, both exclusive to Woolies. 

What’s the latest new find to get you excited?

What I love about the SA wine industry is the sense of adventure. The latest wine to get me excited is the Springfield Albariño, which brings to life the Bruwer family’s memory of a tasting while on holiday in Uruguay. It’s a Spanish cultivar now grown on SA soil and when you taste it, you’re captivated by hints of apricot, nectarine and white flowers, and a crisp, bright acidity. 

What’s your favourite dish to enjoy with it?

Paella. My husband and I love entertaining and that’s what we served to our friends on Christmas Eve – a gigantic paella with plenty of prawns and calamari. The Albariño was a perfect partner. 

What’s SA’s best-kept wine secret?

White blends. We focus so much on reds, and Sauvignon Blanc is queen when it comes to white wine. But the secret is to try something different. White blends are unique and delicious, but they don’t sell because people tend to stick to what they know. The other secret for me would be exploring wines from the Klein Karoo and Overberg (think the new Swartland). These areas express a true sense of place.  

What’s the wine gadget you can’t live without?

A corkscrew. It doesn’t need to be fancy but it must be sturdy – that can get you out of a multitude of problems on a camping holiday, believe me! And then, the bubbles girl in me can no longer live without a good bottle stopper for those rare times when the bottle just can’t be finished. I can tell you that putting a teaspoon in the bottle doesn’t do the trick – that’s a complete myth!