The country’s best new wine writer for 2023 is Margeaux Goosen, who has just completed a stint as winemaking assistant at a boutique winery in Baden, Germany, while the runner-up is Jenna Higgins, newly appointed head winemaker at Wolvenhoek in Wellington and the best blog award went to Clint van Heerden, a chartered accountant and wine lover.
All three winners hail from Stellenbosch, where Margeaux Goosen and Jenna Higgins obtained BSc degrees in molecular biology and biotechnology (Honours) and viticulture and oenology from Stellenbosch University. Clint van Heerden has completed the Certificate in Wine Evaluation from Stellenbosch University and holds a Masters in Education.
The competition is now in its 11th year. The results were announced at a function in the new South African National Wine Show Association (SANWSA) offices at the Simonsvlei Wines Business Hub outside Paarl.
Margeaux Goosen received R15 000 for her winning article, Jenna Higgins R7 500 for the runner-up position and Clint van Heerden R2,500 for the best blog.
The New SA Wine Writer of the Year is open to writers 35 years old or younger and presented by SANWSA, a fully representative industry organisation – which runs the SA Young Wine Show, Veritas Awards and SA Terroir Competition – aiming to identify bright new voices in the wine industry.
The competition was judged in two categories, one for wine-related magazine print articles and one for web blogs, dealing with one of four prescribed subjects.
Margeaux Goosen’s overall winning entry was a magazine article on “How do consumers perceive natural wine.” Under the heading ”
Natural Wine – more than just a funky wine descriptor,” she concluded that “Natural wine has been an electrifying revelation in recent years, bringing fresh air and anticipation into the international wine market with its vibrant approach; however, South African wine consumers have had some difficulties fully embracing these ‘funky’ wines.
“As South African consumers, it’s time to shift our perspective on natural wine. Let’s embrace it not with scepticism but with enthusiasm for its authenticity and purity. Celebrating these wines as raw, honest, and terroir-driven – a reflection of health consciousness with an untamed spirit.”
Goosen was until recently assistant-winemaker at Storm Wines in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and, following her stint at Privat-Weingut Schlumberger-Bernhart, Baden will be joining Damascene Wines, Elgin, for the 2024 harvest.
The runner-up, Jenna Higgins, also in a magazine print article, dealt with the subject of The challenges and opportunities for the wine industry in the 21st century. She points out that “climate change is one of the biggest challenges the global wine industry, that can, however, be combatted with modern technology and farming techniques”.
Higgins spent two vintages at Durbanville Hills as assistant winemaker and takes up her new position at Wolvenhoek in January 2024.
She boasts a strong technical background in most aspects of winemaking in a wide range of styles and cultivars; with emphasis on food safety and traceability, added to good wine judging experience.
Clint van Heerden, whose blog also looked at the Challenges and Opportunities subject, wrote, “By championing innovation, sustainability, and inclusivity, the South African wine industry can not only overcome obstacles but also flourish in a dynamic global landscape, crafting a legacy that transcends borders and endures through generations.”
Van Heerden has obtained distinctions for the Cape Wine Academy’s South African Wine Certificate and the Diploma Wine Course, in addition to his Certificate in Wine Evaluation from Stellenbosch University. He also runs an Instagram page celebrating sparkling wines.
The 2023 judging panel comprised seasoned wine journalists Wanda Augustyn, Cassie du Plessis, Danie Keet, Neil Pendock and Maryke Roberts, who agreed that the 2023 entries were of a good standard and showed the enthusiasm of young wine experts to enter the fields of article and blog writing. The judges said it is good to see that after 11 years of the competition, there is still an appetite for new writers to come to the fore – for whom it should be gratifying to see the winning entries published in WineLand who has been the media partner since the start of the competition.
Wanda Augustyn, editor of WineLand Media said, “Cheers to the talented wordsmith who emerged victorious in the Young Wine Writers competition. Your passion for the art of wine storytelling has set you apart. WineLand is committed to nurturing young talent and promoting the appreciation of fine wines and our wonderful industry through their writing. We are excited to support these budding writers and provide them a platform to shine and continue this partnership to inspire and elevate the world of wine writing.”
The New SA Wine Writer competition’s organisers have announced that a seminar on improving your writing skills will be introduced next year to inspire aspirant wine writers to enter the competition. This will be held at the end of August 2024.
SANWSA chairperson Christo Pienaar said, “It’s gratifying to see the interest in this competition as we need new voices to write about our industry to tell the many interesting stories to connect with the next generation of consumers and wine lovers.”