Stellenbosch wine and sport legend, Jan Boland Coetzee, was honoured with the iconic 1659 medal of honour at the annual Wine Harvest Commemorative event, which took place at Groot Constantia Wine Estate in Cape Town on 6 February 2020.

Coetzee, who grew up on the West Coast and earned a degree in Oenology at Stellenbosch University, began his illustrious winemaking career in 1968 at the Kanonkop Wine Farm outside Stellenbosch. He also made a name for himself on the rugby field where he represented the Western Province a then record of 127 times and played six matches as a South African Springbok.

Social and community upliftment

While Coetzee is well-known for his vine and wine expertise, he also has a prominent reputation for the upliftment of agricultural workers and wineland communities. As part of his role in the field of ​​social upliftment, he was one of the founders of the Rural Foundation in the 1970s, a pioneering organisation striving to improve the living and working environment of local people. He was also one of the founding members of the Cape Winemakers Guild and a former trustee of the guild’s development trust, which ploughs back into the community.

In 1980 Coetzee acquired the farm Vriesenhof, where he is still based today. When not making wine, he enjoys hunting and fishing with his grandchildren or chatting with friends over a glass of wine. Stellenbosch University awarded him an honorary doctorate in Natural and Agricultural Sciences in 2018.

An example to others

According to Dr Ernest Messina, chairperson of Groot Constantia, the 1659 medal of honour has been awarded to persons who have made their mark in the wine industry since 1974.

“The 1659 medal of honour for visionary leadership in the industry was instituted in order to recognise and honour positive contributions. This year’s leader is such a person. Jan Boland Coetzee makes a constructive contribution to positioning the wine industry at a higher level. The industry is definitely better off with his vision and involvement. His tangible actions to give greater human dignity, pride and honour to the industry and all its people are undeniable. He deeply touched people’s lives and created a legacy that is hard to erase. We believe his contribution will inspire others to follow his example.”

Coetzee said in his recipient speech that “the world’s best wines are infused with the spirit of the place, the plants and the people that produce them”, especially “people with patience, passion, precision and pleasure to share”.

Guests enjoyed a gourmet dinner by Simon’s Restaurant, award-winning Groot Constantia wines, and world-class entertainment by members of the Libertas Choir. The Wine Harvest Commemorative event is made possible by the financial support and partnerships of Groot Constantia Estate, Die Burger, Standard Bank, Vinpro and the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show. Agri-Expo is the organiser. – Press release, Agri-Expo