Stellenbosch wine and sports legend Jan Boland Coetzee, received the iconic 1659 Honorary Award (Erepenning) during the annual Wine Harvest Commemorative event. This was held on Thursday 6 February 2020 at the historic Groot Constantia Wine Estate in Cape Town.
Coetzee, who grew up on the West Coast and earned a degree in Oenology at Stellenbosch University, began his illustrious winemaking career in 1968 at the Kanonkop Wine Farm outside Stellenbosch. He also made a name for himself on the rugby field – not only did he represent the Western Province for a record 127 games, but he also earned six caps for the Springboks.
As well-known as Coetzee is for his vineyard and wine expertise, so prominent is his reputation for uplifting agricultural workers, as well as the wine communities of South Africa. As part of his pioneering role in the area of social upliftment, he was one of the founders of the Rural Foundation in the 1970s, a pioneering organisation that strives to improve the living and working conditions of farm workers.
He was one of the founding members of the Cape Winemakers Guild and is a former trustee of the Guild’s Development Trust, which ploughs back into the community especially through their protégé programme. In 1980 Coetzee acquired the farm Vriesenhof, where he still finds himself.
When he’s not making wine, he enjoys hunting, fishing on the West Coast with his grandchildren, or chatting with friends over a glass of wine. Coetzee was awarded an honorary doctorate in the natural sciences in agriculture by Stellenbosch University in 2018. According to Dr Ernest Messina, chairman of Groot Constantia, the 1659 honorary award has been awarded since 1974 to persons who have made a lasting impression in wine industry.
With this year’s award, Groot Constantia’s board wants to reaffirm their commitment to the further restoration of human dignity; building pride in the wine industry; and encourage best practices.