Wine Harvest Commemorative
From the left are Reghardt Strauss, head of agribusiness in the Western Cape, Standard Bank, Ntsiki Biyela, recipient of the diversity and transformation award, Andrew Douglas, TOPS @ SPAR Wine Show, Beyers Truter, recipient of the 1659 Award for Visionary Leadership, Rico Basson, managing director of Vinpro, Michael Fridjhon, recipient of the wine appreciation and wine advancement award, Suzaan Potgieter, editor of Die Burger Versnit, Johan Reyneke, recipient of the viticulture and wine creation award, and Dr Ernest Messina, chairperson of Groot Constantia.

Four trailblazers for the South African wine industry were honoured on 2 February this year during the industry’s annual Wine Harvest Commemorative event. This year’s event, presented for the tenth time at the historic Groot Constantia Wine Estate in Cape Town, took place virtually. The purpose of the event is to celebrate the wine industry’s inception 362 years ago on 2 February 1659, to ask for the Blessing of the Harvest, and to honour role-players.

This year, the board of Groot Constantia introduced three new awards in addition to the 1659 Award for Visionary Leadership, as part of the Wine Harvest Commemorative event to allow for wider recognition. These awards cover the categories diversity and transformation, wine appreciation and wine advancement, as well as viticulture and wine creation.

Visionary leadership award

Stellenbosch wine legend, Beyers Truter, known worldwide as the king of pinotage, was honoured with the iconic 1659 Award for Visionary Leadership. The criteria for individuals or organisations to qualify for this prestigious award include demonstrable efforts and initiatives that have benefited the South African wine industry, creating a lasting impact and legacy, and to encourage and inspire others in the industry.

Wine Harvest Commemorative
Beyers Truter, recipient of the 1659 Award for Visionary Leadership.

As winemaker, wine personality and owner of Beyerskloof, Truter has done all of this as part of his mission to have the South African pinotage variety internationally recognised as a premium red wine. At the age of 25, he became the winemaker of Kanonkop, establishing the brand worldwide with numerous awards.

This includes the prestigious Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Trophy for the world’s best red blend with his iconic Paul Sauer 1991 Bordeaux blend. He also won the Robert Mondavi Trophy at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in 1991 for best winemaker in the world. Truter is the founder and chairperson of the Pinotage Association.

As a true wine legend who has placed pinotage on the world map, Truter is a commendable recipient of the 1659 Award for Visionary Leadership. The previous recipients since the event was hosted at Groot Constantia are Jan Boland Coetzee, Prof Piet Goussard, the Unsung Wineworkers, Charles Back, Danie de Wet, Norma Ratcliffe, Jan Scannell, Dave Hughes, and Spatz Sperling.

Diversity and transformation award

Award-winning pioneer winemaker from Stellenbosch, Ntsiki Biyela, received the diversity and transformation award. The criteria for this award include paving the way for others by eliminating barriers, setting an example and inspiring others, contributing to knowledge that others can use, and having an overall influence on the image of the South African wine industry.

Ntsiki Biyela, recipient of the diversity and transformation award.

Biyela grew up in Mahlabathini, KwaZulu-Natal. After matriculating, she worked as a domestic worker before receiving a scholarship to study at Stellenbosch University, where she obtained a BSc in Agriculture (viticulture and oenology) in 2003. After 13 years as a winemaker at Stellekaya Wines, she started Aslina Wines.

Biyela also worked in Bordeaux and was invited to produce a wine for the Winemaker’s Collection – an opportunity afforded only to a handful of winemakers from around the world. She was named Landbouweekblad’s Woman Winemaker of the Year in 2009, and one of Fortune Magazine’s Top 20 Most Innovative Women in Food and Drinks in 2017.

Her wines received numerous awards, including gold medals from the Michelangelo Wine and Spirits Awards, as well as gold from the Sakura Awards in Japan. Biyela is a highly regarded wine judge and a board member of the Pinotage Youth Development Academy.

Wine appreciation and wine advancement award

Wine Harvest Commemorative
Michael Fridjhon, recipient of the wine appreciation and wine advancement award.

Renowned wine expert, Michael Fridjhon from Johannesburg, was the recipient of the wine appreciation and wine advancement award. The criteria for this award include noticeable contributions towards the image of wine and its responsible use, as well as building the image of the South African wine industry through the producer’s sphere of influence.

Fridjhon has over four decades of experience in the industry and is highly regarded as one of South Africa’s most respected international wine judges. He is one of the country’s leading wine writers, involved in more than 40 wine books, and known for the Wine Wizard website.

Fridjhon has chaired the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show since 2002 and the Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show since 2019. He was the first international co-chair of the International Wine Challenge and is a former chair of the Six Nations Challenge. He is visiting professor of wine business at the University of Cape Town, where he also directs the Wine Judging Academy.

Viticulture and wine creation award

Wine Harvest Commemorative
Johan Reyneke, recipient of the viticulture and wine creation award.

Johan Reyneke, South African pioneer of organic and biodynamic winemaking from Stellenbosch, was honoured with the viticulture and wine creation award. The criteria for this award include the development of new ideas, technologies and methods within the wine-making industry, implementation and transfer thereof, changing mindsets, and benefitting the South African wine industry in general.

Reyneke was a postgraduate student in environmental ethics at Stellenbosch University when he took over farming from his mother on their family farm, Uitzicht, in the Polkadraai hills. His experience in the vineyard, together with the insights he gained during his studies, led him to start farming in a more environmentally friendly way.

He converted Uitzicht to an organic farm in 2000 and established it as one of the first internationally certified organic and biodynamic vineyards in South Africa. Reyneke Wines was one of the first organic wineries in South Africa to receive a five-star rating in Platter’s Wine Guide. In 2020, UK wine writer, Tim Atkin, named Reyneke as grower of the year in his report on South Africa.

Watch the Wine Harvest Commemorative event

The Wine Harvest Commemorative event is made possible by the financial support and partnerships of Groot Constantia Wine Estate, Die Burger, Standard Bank, Vinpro and the TOPS @ SPAR Wine Show. The virtual event can still be viewed on the website www.sawineharvest.co.za and is open to all. – Press release, Agri-Expo