SA wine industry – 20 Years on

On the 11 February we will celebrate the anniversary of Mr Mandela’s release from imprisonment.  A question often asked of me is “have you seen real change in South Africa?”

There is no single answer to this popular question, because there is so much to give thanks for.  However in terms of social and business development, the change has been revolutionary.  The release of Mr Mandela created a platform for change and ushered in SA’s return to global trade with countries around the world embracing our wine industry with open arms. 

South Africa has been celebrating 350 years of winemaking with 2 February 1659 as its starting point.  How fitting that we can continue to celebrate next month remembering those who have contributed to our country and development.  The incredible growth that our wine industry has enjoyed and witnessed includes the establishment of various wine interest groups, such as the Pinotage Association (1995), the restructuring of KWV (1997) into a private company,  the formation of SAWIT in 1999 to advance transformation in the industry and the creation of IPW in 1998, with the focus on continued improvement and betterment of the industry.

The change in our country has largely been due to a shift in mindset and new found freedoms.  Life in the old country was not just a struggle along racial lines, but also in terms of employment.  Inequalities existed where women received lower wages for doing the same job as their male counterparts or were not involved in industries considered to be male orientated.  The wine industry has seen a radical shift here with numerous female winemakers and viticulturalists contributing to our success.  Ronel Wiid, Hazendal, became the first woman to win the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award in 1999.  In 2004 the  SA Woman Winemaker of the Year competition was launched with particular emphasis, apart from the wine entered, on selecting a candidate who stands out as a good ambassador and role model for women in the wine industry.  Ntsiki Biyela of Stellekaya won the 2009 competition with her 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.

So yes, South Africa has changed – I prefer to use the word evolved – and we need to continue to grow as citizens of the world by embracing differences, welcoming challenges and taking ownership of how we contribute on a daily basis to our community, our industry, our country. 

As our great Nelson Mandela said in his speech upon his release in 1990, “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities”.

Enkosi kakhulu Mr Mandela, enkosi!

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