My Wine Story – Jacques Lombard

When Jacques Lombard lost his eyesight to diabetes in 1996, he didn’t lose hope but decided to rise above his circumstances and pursue his ambitions anyway. Today he is a business owner, entrepreneur and investor and recent Cape Wine Academy Diploma Wine Course graduate and recently joined the Cape Wine Master program.

Jacques started his journey at the Cape Wine Academy in 2017. When someone told him that they only drink award-winning wines, he was intrigued by who’s judging these competitions. “I asked my assistant to get the names of the judges and find out why they are judges. We’ve noticed that most of them were affiliated at the Cape Wine Academy.”

Intrigued, Jacques enrolled at the Cape Wine Academy to do the online course within a week and went on to complete the Certificate Wine Course. “The more I knew, the more I wanted to know. It’s the same with money, love and knowledge: the more you have, the more you want.” He also completed the Wines of the World course and started with his Diploma in 2018. “I wrote the Diploma Wine Course Module 1 exam and Wines of the World in the same month.” Jacques completed his Diploma in 2019 with flying colours achieving 82% for his tasting examination – the highest in his class!

It wasn’t all moonshine and roses for him and had to go the extra mile to complete his examinations. “One hour’s studying for a sighted person takes up to five hours for a person without eyes, ” says Jacques who had to pay someone a salary to read the work for him and help him study.“ The Cape Wine Academy asked me to come forward with suggestions to assist me as no blind person has gone further than the online course. Based on my suggestions, they accommodated me as much as possible.”

Jacques completed all of his exams at the Cape Wine Academy offices orally. “It took a whole day to complete one examination paper. My assistant read the questions for me and then I dictated the answers.”

And, how did he do the practical examinations? “I had someone describe the colour of the wine to me and then I did the rest of the tasting”. Jacques says that the key to winetasting is to stick to the formula: Appearance, Smell, Taste. “You can’t go wrong if you follow the recipe.” According to Jacques, he believes that his nose is his strength and is much better than his palate. “I smell things that other people can’t smell easily. I can immediately smell certain specific aromas or wine faults.” Jacques believes that his loss of sight has made his brain more astute in the other senses.

He hopes that more blind people will follow his lead and get their Cape Wine Academy Diploma. “I will be more than willing to help them.”

Although his CWA journey only started in 2017, he was no stranger when it came to wine tasting. In 1997, Jacques joined a wine tasting club specifically for blind people. Hermann Kirschbaum from Buitenverwachting, gathered a few blind people to start this unique club and Jacques has been a member for 24 years. He affirms that blind people taste much better than other people.

Even though Jacques lost his sight 24 years ago he doesn’t let life pass him by. He’s been married for 21 years to his wife and they have a 16-year-old son. He also loves cycling and competes in the Cape Argus every year on a tandem. “Many people think it’s a death sentence when you lose your sight. You shouldn’t use your disability as an excuse. You can still achieve everything you set your mind to.” The only things that he’s unable to do are reading invoices and writing letters. Jacques jokingly says: “At least I have people to do that for me.”

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