Veritas
Burgeoning young wine writer Kristen Duff from Cape Town has clinched the coveted Veritas Young Wine Writer title for 2020.

Burgeoning young wine writer Kristen Duff from Cape Town has clinched the coveted Veritas Young Wine Writer title for 2020. The announcement was made at the prize-giving, presented by the South African National Wine Show Association (SANWSA) – custodians of this competition and presenters of the SA Young Wine Show, Veritas Awards and SA Terroir Awards – at the Lanzerac Hotel in Stellenbosch on 8 December.

Duff, who heads up online communications for Publik Wine and its subsidiary CyberCellar, won herself R15 000 in prize money. The runner-up, Le Roi van de Vyfer, sales ambassador of Saxenburg Wine Estate, collected R7 500.

Entrants were required to share their insights on Innovation in the South African Wine Industry, which has been under considerable pressure during the COVID-19 lockdown period, and the innovation required to stay in business. This, in a 700 words article, while also submitting a 300 words blog post on Responsible Marketing and Wine/Alcohol during these times of restricted movement.

Duff’s top-scoring article was titled ‘Out of the Frying Pan, and onto the Screen: SA Wine’s Digital Revolution in the Face of a Global Pandemic’. In it she states that “post lockdown, local wine businesses are alive and kicking thanks to the creative use of digital tools.

“I’m typing with my laptop balanced precariously atop the microwave in my small Sea Point kitchen, while I attempt to coax the aromas from a pan of sizzling onion and garlic. Alas, no dice. I’m recovering from COVID-19 and still suffering one of the virus’ tell-tale symptoms: a total loss of smell and taste,” she explained.

“Like a sumptuous Cape Malay curry, the SA wine industry is a unique fusion of local elements that form a richly diverse food and wine scene. This melting pot was gravely threatened when our nation was plunged into an extended lockdown and alcohol ban. While the fallout has been dire for many, a number of forward-thinkers have demonstrated that the industry has plenty of kick left. As the Afrikaans proverb goes: ’n Boer maak ’n plan. And boy, did our farmers (and winemakers and sommeliers) make a plan in 2020.”

Shifting to an online marketing environment

She emphasised the growth of streaming a combination of live and online events such as international wine tastings “which has led to far greater reach around the world and a lot more interest and buy-in for South African wine.

“COVID-19 may have threatened to rob the SA wine industry of its zest, but the innovative uptake of online tools shows that its dynamism and (now virtually borderless) spirit of ubuntu will not be smothered. Like my olfactory system, the industry will gradually regenerate – and what a sensation it’s going to be,” she concluded.

Her blog, titled Beyond Protocol: Responsible Wine Marketing in the Time of COVID-19, largely quoted influential wine and travel writer Jared Ruttenberg. According to Ruttenberg, it’s the responsibility of marketers to keep people at the centre of their approach.

He defined, Duff wrote, “three slightly more sociological pillars of responsible wine marketing during lockdown and beyond”, namely “collaboration, community and connection”, saying that “responsible marketing is telling the stories of the people who make the product what it is – and that’s what the pandemic has shown us”.

New writing talent praised by Veritas judges

The judging panel for this eighth annual round of the competition comprised seasoned South African wine journalists Wanda Augustyn, David Biggs, Cassie du Plessis, Danie Keet, Neil Pendock and Fiona McDonald. They were unanimous in their praise for the overall winner.

They described this year’s general standard of writing as impressive. She also added that it’s inspiring to see that young and upcoming wine writers are developing a new millennial style applicable to wine. This should help entice a new generation of educated wine consumers to boost the wine industry.

Wanda Augustyn, editor of this competition’s media partner, WineLand Media, said she was excited about finding new wine writing talent. She added that they would publish the winning article and blog exclusively on the WineLand Media platforms. “There were interesting new angles on the chosen topic. With the right guidance and mentorship these new voices will develop into fine writers.” – Press release, Veritas Awards