Photo from LtR: Christo Pienaar (Veritas), Jan-Boland Coetzee, Hempies du Toit, Gyles Webb, Johan Rossouw, Kiffie de Wet, Eugene van Zyl, Bennie Howard (Veritas)
The tradition of annually honouring a handful of industry leaders was continued at this year’s 29th Veritas Awards ceremony, known for many years as the Oscars of the Wine Industry, on Friday 11 October. This award serves as recognition for exemplary service to the industry over the years – acknowledging their commitment and paying homage for remarkable achievements.
Thereby, seven luminaries received the 2019 Living Legends Scroll of Honour for their dedication to and enthusiasm and passion for the domestic wine and brandy industries. In this year of the Rugby World Cup, the Veritas Board decided to use the opportunity to present the Legends Award to two of the legendary rugby player-winemakers from South Africa.
Jan Boland Coetzee
Revered as a former rugby legend, Jan Boland graduated in Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch. He played for Western Province in 1967 – 1979 and then for the Springboks in 1974 – 1976, turning out as flanker in six tests for the Boks. Both his rugby and wine prowess started at Stellenbosch University, where he impressed as player for the Maties. He started his winemaking career at Kanonkop in 1968. In 1980 he bought the Vriesenhof farm and after releasing his 1981 vintage, spent a season working intensively in Burgundy, confirming his love for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Jan believes that the quest for quality is an ongoing passion that requires constant dedication and care. His philosophy has been that “to make a great wine, you must understand the soil, the plant and the climate”. He received an honorary doctorate from Stellenbosch University in April this year – honouring him for his “pursuit of excellence in the development of technology and management in the South African wine industry, and in the crafting of fine South African wines” and “for his generosity of spirit through his selfless dedication to knowledge transfer and engaged citizenship to improve the working and living conditions of farm workers”.
Kiffie de Wet
Kiffie has been one of those very busy wine personalities. His role as a dedicated wine chemist in his career of over 50 years stands out while he also excelled as a lecturer, wine consultant and winemaker. He graduated with BSc and MSc degrees in Chemistry from the University of Stellenbosch before starting his career as research officer at ARC-Nietvoorbij in Stellenbosch. Then followed periods as Chief Technical Officer at the US Department of Oenology, Research Chemist at Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery and Chief Chemist at KWV, before his appointment as Cellar Manager and Lecturer in Wine Chemistry, Elsenburg Agricultural College. His last position was Winemaker, Wine Chemist and Lecturer at the Cape Institute for Agricultural Training, Elsenburg, where his presentation and evaluation of theoretical and practical instructional offerings in Higher Education were highly regarded. His valuable contribution over many years as a wine chemist in the industry and lecturer at Elsenburg earns him this special award.
Hempies du Toit
For fifth generation winemaker Hempies du Toit, it was the most natural thing in the world to go into farming where his family roots are. After studying Oenology and Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch, he joined his father, Piet, at Alto – this being the 1970s and Alto then being one of South Africa’s most famous wine estates. Hempies, also a rugby legend, is remembered as one of the strongest and craftiest tight-heads ever to don the Springbok rugby jersey. He earned five caps as a front row strongman in South Africa’s national Springbok team in 1981 – 1984. However, the love for wine brought him back to Alto Wine Estate where he grew up, where his grandfather, Manie, and father were winemakers. Piet du Toit was the winemaker from 1959 to 1983, when Hempies took over. It was a tenure of many successes, including the honour of being awarded a “grand slam” at the 1993 Vinexpo in Bordeaux. The 1984 vintage of the Cabernet Sauvignon was the only South African wine to win a Grand Prix d’Honneur. In 1995 this was followed by a gold medal for the 1987 vintage. Hempies and his father are also credited with driving a style of red wine known as a traditional Cape blend with the very successful Alto Rouge. Though celebrated for his role at Alto, he desired his own piece of land. Before Annandale was transferred into Hempies’ well-worked hands in 1996, the farm also housed a riding school. He believes in making wines with as little interference as possible and “never rebelling against nature”. His legacy is set to continue into the future with his crafting of traditional red wines.
Johan Rossouw was born in Paarl, where he and his brother, Kobus, grew up in the house of his father, Oom Sarel Rossouw, the legendary winemaker of Simonsvlei Wine Cellar. Following his naval training he completed his BSc degree in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch and started working for Oom Sarel at Simonsvlei. Then followed winemaking positions at Spruitdrift Cellar, Simonsvlei and again at Spruitdrift where he became Chairman of the Board in 1999. Before his retirement, he was Production Director at Overhex Wine Cellar. Johan’s contribution to the industry was, however, not limited to his role at various wine cellars, he also played a major role in the industry at large. For years he was a Board Member of the SA National Wine Show and the SA Wine Cellars’ Committee, as well as the Winetech Training Committee. He served on the board of both the Paarl and Olifants River Wine Show Associations.
Kobus, like his brother, Johan, learnt about winemaking at an early age from his father, Oom Sarel Rossouw. He completed his Aricultural Diploma at Elsenburg and in 1976, he was one of the first ten students who did the first Cellar Technology Course. Thereafter, he took his first steps in the industry under the able guidance of the well-known Dassie Smith at Rooiberg. Then followed a stint at Welmoed Cellar as Manager-Winemaker and, with Oom Sarel’s retirement in 1986, he took over at Simonsvlei as General Manager-Winemaker. He later moved to Slanghoek Cellar as General Manager-Winemaker, after which he took over at Overhex as Production Director. He furthered his knowledge of the industry by serving as a consultant until his retirement. During his career as winemaker he served as a judge for the Regional Wine Shows and was Chairman of the Technical Committee of the Stellenbosch Wine Show Association and Chairman of the Paarl and Worcester Wine Show Associations respectively.
Eugene van Zyl
Eugene’s interest in agriculture led him from his home town, Germiston, to Stellenbosch University where he originally studied Pomology, before switching to Viticulture and Oenology. After obtaining his degree, he first worked at the Viticultural and Oenological Institute before joining Elsenburg as lecturer and later Head of Cellar Technology. Then followed careers at Vinpro as Oenological Consultant, Director at Simonsvlei and Wine Consultant at Leopards Leap for 14 years. Here he made an important contribution to the development of this successful brand. Over a long period he was well-known in many fields, including the Regional Wine Shows. In 1972 he was a junior judge at the National Young Wine Show, followed by regular judging for the Veritas Awards. Here he was convener of the Chardonnay panel.
Gyles Webb, one of the most respected and successful winemakers in South Africa, was born in Oranjemund, Namibia, studied for a BComm degree at Natal University before qualifying as a Chartered Accountant. In the meantime he had developed an interest in wine and enrolled at the University of Stellenbosch for a BSc Agric in Viticulture and Oenology. After working winemaking stints at SFW, Heitz Winery in Napa and Neethlingshof, he and his wife, Barbara, bought the fruit farm Thelema at the top of Helshoogte Pass in 1983 and began converting the property into a wine estate. Another fruit farm, Sutherland, situated in Elgin, was acquired in 2002 and 43 ha of vines have been established there. Gyles is one of South Africa’s most talented winemakers, and his successes include two Diner’s Club Winemaker of the Year Awards, as well as some Vineyard Block awards and twice featuring in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year. In the mid-1990s, Gyles partnered his neighbour GT Ferreira in setting up the vineyards on Tokara and did the design brief for the Tokara winery. In the late 1990s Gyles, together with friends Charles Back, John Platter and Jabulani Ntshangase, founded The Spice Route Wine Company. He has been a regular wine judge for Wine Magazine, the Fairbairn Capital Wine Show and the SAA panel, also serving on international panels in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK. He has one of the finest palates to identify wines in blind tasting and has a superior knowledge of wines of the world.
For more information, visit www.veritas.co.za or contact the Veritas office at tel 021 863 1599, e-mail email@example.com.
Issued by Veritas Awards
Contact Bennie Howard, Vice Chairman or Elsabe Ferreira, GM