Interview with Di Burger, author of the book "Paarl & Wellington: Gateway to the South African Winelands".

Paarl News & Reviews

Interview with Di Burger.
Author of "Paarl & Wellington: Gateway to the South African Winelands"

Di BurgerDi Burger and Jeremy Browne recently held the launch of their beautiful new photo book about the Paarl and Wellington Winelands at Seidelberg Wine Estate.

This book is a superb photo reflection of the splendour of the entire Drakenstein Valley. thought it a good idea to get in touch with Di and get some “insider information” from her about this beautiful publication.

Di a bit of background about you; where are you from originally?
Cape Town born and educated. I plan to retire somewhere in the Cape Winelands one day, if life goes according to plan!
From where your love for writing?
I am a better listener than a talker – and the ideas flow when I am at my computer. I am particularly fascinated by South African history especially via the personal stories and points of view of those people who have lived here and who have given of themselves, according to their life circumstances. History is being made as we speak! Besides being a creative thinker, I am also a good project manager. This has been the one defining feature throughout my many career changes.
What’s been your career highlights?
I have spent the last 6 years working in the various regions of the Cape Winelands. My career changes are a result of being female and having married and brought up two children together with my husband of 25 years. I was initially a swimwear er- project managing a team of people to create huge ranges of swim- and leisure wear each year. When my babies were born, I took up massage therapy and counselling so that I could work from home. As my children finished their studies and started becoming more independent - my new found freedom, opportunities seized, keenly developed taste buds and incredible support from my partner set me on a new career path in my fifties that, surprisingly, calls on so many of the skills that I gathered earlier on in life.
Talking about your and Jeremy’s latest book; It’s an interesting title? The gateway…
The Valley between the Berg River and the Hawequas mountains in Wellington were long ago named ‘Limietvallei’ because this was literally the wild outer limits of the Cape Colony. The opening of the Bainskloof pass in 1853 immediately created direct access to and from the North and these two towns, both renowned for their vital wagon making skills, (which was the mode of travel at this time) became the last stop or ‘gateway’ for the trail of wagons to the North. They both have well deserved reputations for producing excellent wines and hence - ‘Gateway to the Winelands’.

The Books Cover

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
It was Jeremy’s idea to do a book about the Franschhoek wine estates. It was my idea to turn that book into a series, showing the wineland regions in South Africa. Our South African history is so fascinating that it did not take long to get sucked in...! I have enjoyed doing the research and I enjoyed the people that I met along the way. I went to school in Paarl for a few years so I have always had a soft spot for this town. Driving through this relatively un-marketed town, I felt driven to share the beauty that I was discovering there.
Do you have a similar writing and research process you follow with all your books?
I start by getting to know the place, or the product – this involves reading, talking to people, seeing things for myself. Each person I come into contact with will recommend other people or other places, or offers some information. My current book on Bubbly has taken me all over the Cape Winelands, I take my research seriously – and so I am aiming to be the first person ever to have tasted every single Cap Classique available in SA! This has been no trouble at all!
Did you do all your own research for this book?
Definitely. It was the part that gave me the most pleasure. Meeting the people and listening to the stories. I am privileged!
On average how long does a project like this take?
It takes a year – with the odd delays, it can be up to one and a half years before the launch of the book.
Which other similar books have you done to date?
We did a similar book on Franschhoek and then the following year we did one on Stellenbosch. Jeremy is currently doing a book on the Hermanus region – where he and his family live - and I have gone solo this year to follow a particular passion of mine........and just to see if I can!
What did you most enjoy about writing the Paarl Wellington book?
I really enjoyed the people. The people in this region are so friendly and honest and accommodating. Paarl is such an unspoilt gem. I was so proud to be doing this book. I also enjoyed the amazing discoveries that each day held for me. A friend said to me recently – I have never thought of going to Paarl, but after reading your book, my husband and I are going to spend the day there to see it for ourselves’. It made me feel good to hear her say that!
Any unique challenges you faced with the Paarl Wellington book?
Yes, I suppose many people were not initially receptive to the idea of marketing Paarl for Paarl’s sake. They wanted to feel that they were going to benefit directly and immediately and did not readily see the big picture (The miserable winter weather and the recession probably did not help either!!) –and there was a point where I almost gave up. I persevered because I had seen what Paarl and Wellington had to offer, and I really believed in the book!
Fortunately I travelled around for many months and so in the end, as I got to know people better they warmed to the idea. Having said that – the response from the people of Paarl – now that the book had been launched, has been extremely gratifying and the sales have been very good. What can I say? I am really proud – and I think Jeremy’s photographs are really lovely.
To date how many copies have you sold?
I am not sure, sales are consistent and good. I will ask.... We printed 5 000 copies
What were the most significant discoveries you made for yourself about Paarl & Wellington while compiling the materials for the book?
I think that the accommodation, including those on the wine farms is as good as, if not better, than any of the other regions. I think that visitors appreciate the unspoilt, unhurried feeling in the Paarl and Wellington Winelands, where the estates are so well cared for and with such beautiful views, so much proud history and good old Cape hospitality. I managed to go on a Wellington Wine Walk with my husband and that experience was world class. I recommend it to everyone. That was where I first experienced the wealth of excellent accommodation and the warmth of the group of people who run it.
Any trends you’re seeing in terms of the hospitality and guesthouse industry that the Paarl & Wellington business owners should take note of?
I have seen how Paarl is growing and blossoming. The Main Road is becoming more and more tourist attractive. I think that Paarl should aim to draw visitors over the weekends – have art galleries and restaurants and other activities in the town that encourage the inflow of people. I have always believed in joint marketing – as I believe it has more force. This book is a prime example of joint marketing!
Any other unique insights that you’ve mentioned in the book which should be noted by our readers?
Paarl is in good hands!
A recent article featured in the Paarl Post hinted at your next writing project… What is that all about?
Cap Classique, the bubbly produced in the Cape Winelands in the exact same traditional French Méthode Champenois (known here as méthode cap classique) is gaining a reputation for outstanding quality. With our wide range of climates and terroirs we have a wide range of house styles and this prestigious sparkling wine is the fastest growing product in the South African Winelands.

Cap Classique is a phenomenon – with a fascinating history both in SA and before that, in France. The method of production is complicated and involves such gentle care and dedication and in this book you will see the surprising extent of the bubbly industry in SA today; the many ways that méthode Cap Classique sparkling wine is enjoyed; with expressions and stories down the ages.

"Celebrating Méthode Cap Classique" will be launched at the end of September 2011. It will be the most attractive and informative gift to give this Christmas.
Di thanks for your efforts with this beautiful publication and with promoting the Paarl & Wellington Wine Lands. We wish you well with your new venture!!!

Paarl Wellington: Gateway to the South African Winelands is available at Exclusive Books and other book stores around South Africa, as well as the local tourist offices. ART Publishers are the distributers and you can contact Barbara Hilarides on Cell No 0725872103 and Heide Marie Muller on Cell No 0725872071 for more information.

For entry to our exciting online competition coming soon please watch this space. Enter online and stand the chance to win one of many fabulous prizes…Coming soon on the "Paarl and Wellington @ Your Fingertips site"