Three new Cape Wine Masters receive their diplomas

by | Sep 12, 2021 | Article, News

Caption: Jacques Steyn, Chairman of the Institute of Cape Wine Masters, Rico Basson, CEO of Vinpro and Wine Personality of the Year 2021, and Bennie Howard, one of the original Cape Wine Masters.

The three Cape Wine Masters (CWM) who graduated in May from the Cape Wine Academy (CWA) during the Covid-19 lockdown were finally presented with their diplomas in person at a ceremony in the Franschhoek Cellar sponsored by DGB Ltd. 

This takes the number of CWMs to attain this elite self-study qualification in the 41-year history of the CWA, to 109.

They are: René Groenewald, product developer for Woolworths speciality cheese, Lieza van der Merwe, former winemaker and currently manager of the tasting facility and the marketing of Merwida Family Wines, and Gavin Whittaker, export manager for Asia & Middle East markets of Van Loveren Wines.

Two of the customary special awards for best performance in the examinations were also presented on this occasion.

René Groenewald received the award for Viniculture from Piet Steenkamp of Groenland, while Lieza van der Merwe won the award for Viticulture presented by La Motte’s Jaco Visser, senior farm manager. 

The dissertations of the three new CWMs cover topical issues affecting the South African wine industry. René 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 from 2015 to 2018 have affected the South African wine industry.

Gavin Whittaker’s dissertation was on the availability, choices, production methods and market potential of no alcohol and lower alcohol (NOLO) wines in South Africa. 

The names of two award winners were announced at the annual Institute of Cape Wine Masters (ICWM) dinner held on 11 September at Jordan Wine Estate in Stellenbosch: the Wine Personality of the Year and the second winner of the Dave Hughes Trophy, instituted last year in honour of the founder of the Cape Wine Academy in 1979 and honorary CWM. 

Rico Basson, CEO of Vinpro, was designated Wine Personality of the Year. Vinpro is a non-profit company which represents close to 2 600 South African wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders.  Basson was given this award for the sterling work he did to lead the South African wine industry in its lobbying efforts with the South African government during the series of national lockdowns during the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic since March 2020. 

Together with other stakeholders he was at the forefront to voice the wine industry’s viewpoint during the banning of production, movement, distribution, exporting and selling of wine and alcohol during government’s stringent Covid-19 lockdown.

Basson is also involved in an industry-wide effort to gain legal support for its appeal to the government via a High Court action suit to give the wine sector some much-needed concessions to prevent further ruin of the businesses of hundreds of wine producers and wineries and the loss of an estimated 18 000 jobs. 

Duimpie Bayly was posthumously designated the recipient of the Dave Hughes Trophy which honours the CWM who has made a notable contribution to the Institute of Cape Wine Masters (ICWM), wine education or the wine industry in general. Duimpie, who passed away in August, was one of the original Cape Wine Masters to qualify in 1984. The award was handed to his widow Sue and his son Gregg,

Jacques Steyn handing over the Dave Hughes Trophy posthumous to Duimpie Bayly, received by his wife Sue and son Gregg Bayly.

Duimpie attained his BSc at the University of Stellenbosch in the fifties, his masters in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of California, Davis, in the sixties, and a Professional Management Diploma (PDM) at the Harvard Business School – or as he described it, ‟bringing the university of wine to the university of business‟.

He mastered his tasting skills during his initial stints working in the laboratory and cellars of the Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (SFW) from 1962 onwards and then as group operations director. During his career of more than fifty years in the industry he represented SFW, later Distell, on many wine industry bodies until his retirement in 2013.

Designated KWV Wine Personality of the Year in 1999, Duimpie served in various capacities on the boards of institutions such as the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI), Agri-Expo, the SA National Wine Show Association (Veritas and the SA Young Wine Show), the Technical Committee of the Wine & Spirit Board, the Demarcation Committee of the Wine of Origin System and the Cape Vintner Classification (CVC). He was also honorary life president of the SA Society of Enology & Viticulture (SASEV), which also gave him a merit award in 1986. He was also a founder member of the Pinotage Association and sought-after as judge on many wine and brandy competitions.

Duimpie also played a key role in the establishment of the Institute for Grape and Wine Sciences (IGWS) at his alma mater, Stellenbosch University, in 2013. 

In closing, the ICWM chairperson Jacques Steyn, general manager at Jordan Wine Estate, also paid tribute to the three CWMs who sadly passed away in the last year:  Allan Mullins, Bill Cooper-Williams and Geoff Willis.

Allan Mullins, the sixth CWM to qualify in 1986 and wine selector at Woolworths for more than three decades, passed away on Christmas Day 2020 after a lifetime in the wine industry, as judge, writer of books and magazines, tasting presenter and lecturer.

Bill Cooper-Williams, who qualified in the same year as Allan Mullins, was from Johannesburg where he was head of the KWV consumer services specialising in education programmes. He was the founder of the East Rand Wine Society established in 1986, which is still going strong.

Geoff Willis, who became a CWM in 1995, ran the KZN CWA branch for many years as an examiner at Certificate Level and lecturing students at various levels. He also organised various wine-related tastings and competitions. 

Currently the prestigious group of Cape Wine Masters includes 13 from overseas and one of the three original Cape Wine Masters – Bennie Howard who, together with the late Duimpie Bayly and the late Tony Mossop, were the first to qualify in 1984. Of the total active membership of the Institute, Western Cape members comprise 75%, Gauteng 24% and KwaZulu-Natal 1%.The total membership profile of the CWM is 45% male and 55% female.

Dissertations are available in full on the websites of the CWA, www.capewineacademy.co.za and the Institute of Cape Wine Masters www.icwm.co.za.  Bound copies are also available from the CWA library. 

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