SA Women in Wine: Nicky Wallace

Nicky Wallace of Paul Wallace Wines, Elgin, South Africa
Nicky Wallace of Paul Wallace Wines, Elgin, South Africa

Husband and wife duo, Nicky and Paul Wallace of Paul Wallace wines, purchased their 25 hectare farm in Elgin, South Africa in September 2003. Together they set out to create their own little piece of heaven in one of South Africa’s most exciting developing wine regions.

How do you and Paul split the work at Paul Wallace wines?

Well it’s pretty much a team effort between Paul and myself but essentially he does the farming, I do all the business side, and together with our winemakers we do the winemaking.  

So if asked to describe my typical day it’s very difficult. I could be packing and dispatching wine around the country, presenting wine tastings, ordering bottles or labels, processing invoices, writing copy for labels, our website and product fact sheets, or debt collecting (my least favourite job!).

What was the moment or inspiration that led you into the world of wine?

Both sides of my family are steeped in the liquor industry so it was inevitable that I should fall in love with wine. It’s in my blood.

In a nutshell, I used to work in my father’s bottle shop as a student. It was there that the journey into wine first hooked me.   I’m of the generation that young ladies were encouraged to be nurses or teachers.  However when I got to university, I realised that there is so much scope out there.

Following graduation, I joined Woolworths (a large retail group in South Africa, similar to the UK’s Marks & Spencer) and, after a year in store, I was seconded to their Head Office as a buyer.  I subscribed to a few wine courses off my own bat and ended up in the enviable job as National and Grocery Buyer. 

That was the start of a love affair with wine that eventually led to my husband and I following our dream and buying a rather tired apple farm in Elgin, South Africa.  We have created what we believe is a  little spot of paradise, a boutique wine farm of some 25hectares (12 hectares under vineyard), which both Paul and I simply love to share.

When you’re not busy with wine, what do you like to do?

I love to garden and my rose bushes are my pride and joy.  I think I have over 500 of them. And whenever I need to recharge my soul, a walk on the beach or a day out sea fishing off Cape Point does the trick.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Follow your instinct.  I guess that’s the retailer in me.  It also applies to wine tasting.  Don’t try and over think it.  Clear your mind and be led by your first impression, your gut feel.  

I’m good at grasping the broad picture and can be a stickler about seeing something done properly.  We have a Noble Late Harvest wine which bears my name, “The Nix”.  I like to tell everyone that this is because I’m extremely sweet.  My two winemaking sons will tell you that “Sticky Nicky” would be a more appropriate name!

If you were to recommend one food and wine pairing, what would it be?

A slow roasted leg of lamb with our Paul Wallace Crackerjack (I love a well put together Bordeaux-styled red wine). Or The Nix served with ginger biscuits, a creamy blue cheese, and preserved or fresh figs.

What advice would you give to a woman starting out in wine?

Although this is for International Women’s Day, I must say I hate anything that is gender or race driven.  I would prefer to be judged on my merits against all my peers. Be that as it may, I’m not above grabbing an opportunity!!!  My advice is never settle for second best, believe in your abilities, and allow your passion to shine through.  

With particular reference to the wine industry, travel the wine lands of the world and absorb their ethos, open  your mind to possibilities, experience as much as possible and keep tasting.  You will never know enough about wine. 

How privileged am I to be able to say that wine is My Passion, My Profession and My Hobby.


About RAKQ

RAKQ strives to give high quality South African wine the attention it deserves in the UK. Working as a specialist South African wine importer, RAKQ brings to market some of the best SA wine through its online shop and wine club with blog posts exploring SA’s wine regions, producers and varietals.