Wine Harvest Commemorative Event honourees offer industry insights

by | Mar 19, 2024 | Article, Opinion


Few events within the wine industry attract as much attention and excitement as that of the annual Wine Harvest Commemorative Event – and it’s little wonder when you consider the exceptional pedigrees and efforts of the industry greats who are honoured at this prestigious event.

The Wine Harvest Commemorative Event takes place every year in February at the Groot Constantia wine estate and not only marks the birth of South African wine while calling for a blessing on the new harvest but – most importantly – pays tribute to key individuals who have made exceptional contributions towards the ongoing success of South African wine.

Over the years, many great wine legends have been recognised under the categories of Visionary Leadership (with the 1659 Award for Visionary Leadership), Growing Inclusivity, Wine Advancement, and Viti- and Viniculture – and this year’s recipients are no different.

Tim Hutchinson was chosen for the 1659 Award for Visionary Leadership; Ilse Ruthford was the recipient of the Growing Inclusivity award; Cathy Marston was the recipient of the Wine Advancement award and Dawid Saayman was selected for the Viti- and Viniculture award.

Hutchinson, Ruthford and Marston share their expert insights on some of the factors impacting the wine industry in South Africa:

Tim Hutchinson – 1659 Award for Visionary Leadership
“There is a growing focus on producing high-quality wines which is translating into healthy growth in the premium wine market, with higher price points. Interesting to note is that younger consumers are increasingly showing a preference for quality wines and becoming more brand loyal on the premium end of the market,” says Visionary Leadership honouree Tim Hutchinson, who is the long-serving Executive Chairman of DGB and a man who navigated his way from humble beginnings to head up one of the largest independent wine companies in South Africa. His bold moves, philanthropic efforts, and socially responsible projects have forever shaped the course of South African wine.

Winemakers are also experimenting with new winemaking techniques, and Hutchinson advises that new styles of popular varieties and blends are gaining traction. “We are finding that consumers are looking for purer, fresher styles of both whites and reds with balanced natural acidity. With regards to red wines, lighter styles and varieties which can be chilled are starting to gain traction – think Grenache and Cinsault.”

Todays consumers have an expectation of brands they associate with to be sustainable. The industry has some way to however sustainability is becoming increasingly entrenched in South Africa’s wine industry, with wineries progressively adopting more environmentally friendly practices. However, according to Hutchinson, it is not, and should not be done to influence consumer behaviour, but rather because it is the right thing to do for the environment and future generations.

Ilse Ruthford – Growing Inclusivity Award
The wine industry in South Africa is also increasingly focusing on transformation through social responsibility initiatives, promoting diversity and inclusion, supporting local communities, and empowering previously disadvantaged groups within the sector.

The Growing Inclusivity honouree, Ilse Ruthford, Managing Director of Compagniesdrift (a 100% black-owned company) and board member of the Stellenbosch Wine Route, advises that transformation is key for the South African wine industry.

“We must focus on education, training, mentorship, and encourage minority community-owned businesses to become majority shareholders. We must all strive to promote equality, upliftment, mutual respect, and a sustainable environment,” says Ruthford, who uses her passion and experiences to inspire, uplift and mentor others and promote farmworker development. In addition, she plays a pivotal role in the community where she guides socio-economic development.

Cathy Marston – Wine Advancement Award

Cathy Marston, founder and head lecturer at the International Wine Education Centre (IWEC) and the 2024 Wine Advancement honouree, agrees that sustainability is more and more ingrained in all aspects of the wine industry, including wine education.

“Vineyard sustainability is the topic of the current research assignment that all my Diploma students are undertaking and which involves a comprehensive study of regenerative viticulture and its impacts (both positive and negative) locally and globally,” says Marston, who is an esteemed wine educator, wine taster, judge and journalist with a global reach and influence. She has made great efforts to elevate the appreciation and understanding of South African wine locally and internationally.

Dr Ivan Meyer, Western Cape MEC of Agriculture says that the Western Cape Government is proud to be associated with the Wine Harvest Commemorative Event and the industry greats who are striving to make the sector increasingly successful. “I wish to thank these honourees for their contributions to the wine industry. They have not only helped to develop goals for the future of the industry but also ensure that they leave behind a world-class, competitive wine industry which the next generation of leaders can take to new heights.”

“In Cape Town, our wines tell stories of freedom and innovation. As we support the Wine Harvest Commemorative Event, we celebrate not just the rich flavours but the spirits of resilience and creativity that define our city. These vanguards, who we honour, are crafting a future where each bottle reflects our journey from past to promise, connecting global travellers to our unique heritage and visionary outlook.” says Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism.

“It is an honour to host this significant industry event every year,” says Jean Naudé, CEO of Groot Constantia. “Nominations for the 2025 Wine Harvest Commemorative Event open in July and we are looking forward to seeing the list of prestigious nominees.”

“The Wine Harvest Commemorative Event is made possible through collaboration and financial support by Groot Constantia, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, Wesgro, South Africa Wine, Standard Bank, Checkers, Die Burger, and Cape Town Tourism,” concludes Naudé.

To learn more about the Wine Harvest Commemorative Event, the honourees, and the South African wine industry in general, as well as the nomination process for next year’s event, please visit

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