Vineyard Practice Evaluation Project

Background to the project:

The Vineyard Practice Evaluation Project, previously known as the “Vineyard Block Competition”, was founded in 1976 when Gawie van der Merwe – who was then the extension officer in Worcester – devised a vineyard block competition for wine and table grapes in that region. The vineyard block competition project was Gawie’s research project for his M.Sc in Extension Science. The competition was a means of viticultural extension, aimed at transmitting the most recent information to producers and giving them a practical demonstration of how to apply good and proper viticultural practices. Vineyard blocks were evaluated according to a judging form, on which the desired and / or ideal standards of each viticultural practice were clearly set out, and in the light of which the end result of a producer’s decision making processes – both short and long term – could be evaluated.

Important changes throughout the years:

Although the competition has changed slightly over the past 28 years, the basic format has remained more or less the same and it is still considered to be a very important Technology Transfer Project in the wine industry – for this Gawie van der Merwe rightly deserves a feather in his cap. In 1979 the vineyard block competition was extended to other districts and in the early ’80s SFW (spearheaded by Abraham Kriel) sponsored the competition by presenting the regional winners with trophies at a most enjoyable and popular function. On this occasion too an overall winner was announced, the main prize being a trip to an overseas wine region of the winner’s choice. As from 2001 the executive committee suggested that the emphasis should fall not so much on the competition, but that it should instead be a viticultural practice evaluation project. Wine producers should be encouraged to enter so as to measure their standard of viticultural practice, rather than competing against each other.

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The goals of the project:

  • The most important goal of the project, to my mind, is to give wine producers the opportunity to have the standard of their viticultural practices evaluated by a team of experts, who identify the strong as well as the weak points of a vineyard block and by so doing, measure the producer’s management practices against international standards.
  • At the producers’ open days that are held on site at each regional winning block, practical demonstrations of cutting edge technology and the correct viticultural practices are given to wine producers and their labour force.
  • Wine producers also receive recognition for good and high standards of viticultural practice through media coverage, the prizes / prize money, floating trophies and certificates that are awarded to regional winners.
  • The project is an important and effective means of transmitting the latest research information and technology to producers in the wine industry.
  • Very good liaison is achieved among researchers; viticulturists; oenologists and producers in the industry so as to:
  • Obtain exposure to viticultural conditions in the various wine regions and
  • Calibrate one another with regard to vineyard practices and general viticultural problems.

The project also identifies pressing viticultural issues in the wine industry which form the basis of new research and Technology Transfer Projects.

Funding of the project:

Winetech has been funding the project since 2002. Loyal local sponsors, who are mainly suppliers of agricultural products, sponsor the winners in each district.

The judging panels:

The judging panels are appointed by VinPro Viticultural Consultation Service, by inviting members of the SASEV Forum for Viticulturists to form part of a judging panel (8 – 9 persons) for a district. Judges are also rotated annually among districts to get exposure to different cultivation conditions. The judges bear their own costs. The VinPro Viticultural consultants are the convenors of the respective judging panels and manage all the arrangements.

The judging form / criteria:

Judging is based on separate judging forms for bush vine, trellised or mechanised vines that are considered to be a good yardstick. The judging form is also evaluated annually and amended if necessary. Each participant receives feedback when the judging form, with the points allocation and comments from the judging panel, is returned to him/her.

How to enter / Entry requirements for the block:

If you would like to enter this year’s project, or need more information about the requirements for a vineyard block to be eligible for entry, contact your VinPro regional viticultural consultant for more information (see contact information below).

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