New Cape Wine Masters graduate from Cape Wine Academy

by | May 31, 2021 | Article, News

Three new Cape Wine Masters (CWM) have graduated from the Cape Wine Academy (CWA), bringing the total number to attain this elite self-study qualification in its 42-year history to 109.

Their names were announced at the virtual AGM of the Institute of Cape Wine Masters (ICWM) on Saturday, 29 May. They are Gavin Whittaker, export manager for Asia & Middle East markets of Van Loveren, Rene Groenewald, product developer for Woolworths Dairy, and Lieza van der Merwe of Merwida Vineyards, formerly winemaker and currently manager of the tasting facility and marketing.

The dissertations of the three new CWMs cover topical issues affecting the South African wine industry. Gavin Whittaker’s dissertation is on the availability, choices and production methods of no alcohol and lower alcohol (NOLO) wines in South Africa and whether there is a market for them. Rene Groenewald’s paper looked at environmental sustainability in the South African wine industry, while Lieza van der Merwe tackled drought, and how the extreme climatic conditions of the years 2015-2018 have affected the South African wine industry.

Dissertations will be available in full on the websites of the CWA, and the Institute of Cape Wine Masters on 1 July 2021. Bound copies will be available from the CWA library from 1 September 2021.

According to ICWM chairperson Jacques Steyn, general manager at Jordan Wine Estate the diplomas will be handed to the new CWMs at a formal awards luncheon to be held in August this year.

A new exco of the Institute was elected at the AGM. Chairman Jacques Steyn continues his tenure since last year; the new secretary is Debi van Flymen, with Heidi Duminy as vice-chair and Educom representative and Tom Blok as treasurer. The Southern representative is Harry Melck and the Northern representative is Kristina Beuthner.

In 2003, the Cape Wine and Spirit Education Trust granted the Cape Wine Academy the right to award the Cape Wine Master (CWM) qualification and confer the Cape Wine Master’s title, in collaboration with the Institute of Cape Wine Masters.

More than 200 000 wine enthusiasts have attended the lectures and training programmes of this wine education and industry service (CWA) which was instituted as part of the Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (SFW) Wine plan in 1979.


  • Gavin Whittaker’s dissertation titled ‘No Alcohol and Lower Alcohol (NOLO) Wines: Options available in South Africa, their production methods and whether there is a market for these wines.’

 Whittaker’s dissertation is an overview of non-alcoholic and lower alcoholic (NOLO) wine options available in South Africa up until 2020 and provides an insight into the NOLO wine category from an objective viewpoint. The reasoning behind the rise and growth of NOLO wines around the world has been compared and an assessment made as to their relevance in a South African context with reference to available data and a consumer survey. This survey is not meant to be a definitive insight into what all South African wine consumers think, but does offer a guide for comparison purposes. This paper offers an introduction to the NOLO category from a wine perspective – the current speed of innovation within the NOLO wine product sphere with a constant influx of new products. From a regulatory point of view, there are a myriad of issues facing regulatory bodies and producers. The paper also deals with the production of these wines, which technologies are available to producers, as well as which wine styles are available in the South African market.

  • Rene Groenewald’s dissertation titled ‘Environmental Sustainability in the South African Wine Industry’

Rene Groenewald’s 2021 research paper on environmental sustainability unpacks the concerns, responses, and opportunities for South African producers to safeguard the wine industry’s long-term survival, particularly its resilience to climate change. Groenewald hones in on improving biodiversity and reducing pollution and carbon emissions. The research finds that while well-established practices like planting crop covers, building the organic carbon content of the soil, and integrated pest management are restoring biodiversity in the vineyard, there is phenomenal potential to better capture, analyse and share data and enable more efficient applications of water, energy, and agrochemicals across the value chain.

  • Lieza van der Merwe’s dissertation titled ‘Drought: How has the extreme climatic conditions of the past few years (2015-2018) affected the South African wine industry.’

This dissertation explores the detrimental effects caused by the drought in the Western Cape during the past few years on the South African wine industry. Interactions with various industry role players and winemakers/viticulturists provide a concise snapshot of what the industry experienced during these turbulent times. Looking at global climate change and its effect in South Africa and the Western Cape, this paper focuses on how important water is for agriculture and the long-term and short-term strategies required to farm with wine grapes and how best to adapt to changing circumstances. Vineyard practices, vineyard management, winemaking, winery cleaning practices and the necessity for water for all these activities are explained. It considers the economic effect of the drought and how producers were forced to make tough decisions and to think outside the box to save their livelihoods. It also looks at the future facing the wine industry and the research being conducted in the light of global climate change fast becoming a reality.

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