Four trailblazers of the South African wine industry were honoured this week during the industry’s annual Wine Harvest Commemorative event. The event, presented for the 10th time this year 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 as part of the event to enable wider recognition. These awards cover the categories Diversity and Transformation, Wine Appreciation and Wine Advancement, and Viticulture and Wine Creation.
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, a lasting impact and legacy, and to encourage and inspire others in the industry.
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. Truter is the founder and chairperson of the Pinotage Association.
Diversity and Transformation
Award-winning pioneer winemaker Ntsiki Biyela from Stellenbosch 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.
Biyela 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 also is a highly regarded wine judge and a board member of the Pinotage Youth Development Academy.
Wine Appreciation and Wine Advancement
Renowned wine expert Michael Fridjhon from Johannesburg was named 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 as a whole through their 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.
Viticulture and Wine Creation
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 the farm to organic 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.