SA needs to move on from 1659 and toast its wine alchemists more ...

Lifestyle

SA needs to move on from 1659 and toast its wine alchemists more often

The Wine Enthusiast shortlist, including three South Africans, shows how little we celebrate our stars

Michael Fridjhon

The Cape wine industry doesn’t do a great job of celebrating its heroes. There are no “lifetime achievement awards”. The closest thing is a gong awarded annually on February 2 — the date, in 1659, when Jan van Riebeeck recorded the first crush of Cape-grown grapes.

The recipient of the 1659 Medal of Honour “should have demonstrated ... a pioneering, positive and significant contribution to the wine industry”. Laureates over the years (and there have been many deserving ones) have been almost exclusively male, white and Afrikaans-speaking. This alone should suggest that if there have been any trailblazers among them, they followed fairly well-trodden paths.

It seems exceptional individuals and great producers must wait for the international community to recognise them. In 2017, Eben Sadie won the Winemakers’ Winemaker of the Year Award, presented by the Institute of Masters of Wine. It is voted upon by all the Masters of Wine who are winemakers, as well as the award’s past winners. In 2016, Andrea Mullineux was named Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast, a US publication with a worldwide readership of 800,000. She was the first South African and only the third woman to win the award in the 17 years since its inception...

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