Heroes of SA Wine

Neil Pendock February 2, 2009 0

SA wine celebrated its 350th birthday under the spreading oaks of Groot Constantia this afternoon. Well the togas worn by the 35 local heroes of wine plus diplomatic corps (SA conspicuous by its absence) turned out to be scarlet PhD gowns (sans hats) lending the event a faux academic air or a Congress of the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture circa 1954. No Helen Zille and not even a deputy minister – they must all still be skiing at Davos. No wonder the incumbent Minister of Agriculture fell off the ANC election list as events as publicity rich as this only come round once a political lifetime.

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Standing solemn for the National Anthem on the hallowed ground of SA wine, toasting ghosts with Cobus Joubert’s 1860 Muscadel (11½% alcohol), watching two young black men toyi-toyi grapes to a tribal drumbeat are a few vignettes from an amazing day to celebrate an amazing heritage.

Sure there were Peter Sellers moments and curtain ties do make strange period costumes but then this is SA. Maybe not as sophisticated as they’d do it in Bordeaux or as slick as Napa, but strangely moving and authentically South African for all that.

Those local heroes in their red togas:

1. Duimpie Bayly, chair of the National Wineshow
2. Abrie Beeslaar, Winemaker of the Year 2008
3. JC Bekker, Boschendal
4. Jan Boland Coetzee, Vriesenhof
5. Johan Ehlers of sponsor AgriExpo
6. Smartie Genade, Distell
7. Phyllis Hands, pioneer of the Cape Wine Academy
8. Dave Hughes, SA’s most experienced wine show judge
9. Clarence Johnson, president Great Wine Capitals of the World
10. Altus le Roux, Winemaker of the Year 2001
11. Thys Loubser, KWV MD
12. Ernest Messina, chairman of the board of Groot Constantia
13. Johan Pienaar, viticulturalist extraordinaire
14. Pietman Retief, brandy bigwig
15. Spatz Sperling, founder of Stellenbosch Wine Route
16. Beyers Truter, Winemaker of the Year 1991
17. Willy Williams, National African Farmers Union
18. Ernest Zeh, 98 years old (do you need any more qualifications than that?)

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The problem with lists is that they’re infectious and everyone comes up with their own. My own Salon des Refusés (of people NOT physically present today) would look something like:

1. Charles Back, visionary
2. Tessa de Kock, PR whizz
3. Jean Engelbrecht, most passionate estate owner
4. Vaughn Johnson, best known retailer
5. Marc Kent, most fashionable winemaker
6. Etienne le Riche, most elegant winemaker
7. Annatjie Melck, successor to Ansela van de Caab
8. Hannes Myburgh, vinous royalty
9. Alan Pick, rainmaker
10. John Platter, best wine writer
11. Norman Ratcliffe, Simonsberg first lady
12. Johan Reyneke, biodynamic pioneer
13. Johann Rupert, largest investor
14. Eben Sadie, most charismatic winemaker
15. Mbhazima Shilowa, epicurean
16. Mark Solms, the future
17. Tinus van Niekerk, the conscience
18. André Van Rensburg, highest profile winemaker

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