Share in the celebrations of the 2023 Cape Wine Harvest Commemorative Event in South Africa

2023 marks 364 years since the first wine was made from Cape grapes – an occasion noted by Jan van Riebeeck in his diary in 1659 when he wrote, “Today, praise be to God, wine was made for the first time from Cape grapes.” 

To honour this momentous event, South African wine producers, wine lovers, social sippers, connoisseurs, collectors, restaurateurs, and retail outlets countrywide come together and pay tribute to South Africa’s rich wine heritage. One of these occasions is the annual Wine Harvest Commemorative Event.

This year’s event, held to celebrate the birth of South Africa’s wine industry 364 years ago, included the blessing of the new harvest and tributes to four individuals who have shown the way for future generations, unlocking their talents to ultimately leave a unique and proud legacy for South Africa.

They were honoured in four categories: Visionary Leadership, Growing Inclusivity, Wine Advancement, and Viti- and Viniculture. 

At the 2023 Wine Harvest Commemorative Event, hosted on South Africa’s oldest wine-producing farm, Groot Constantia, in Cape Town, the South African wine industry formally honoured four outstanding individuals:

Ken Forrester (winner of the Visionary Leadership category and widely known as “Mr Chenin”) has profoundly enhanced the reputation of the South African Chenin Blanc cultivar. Over the years, his inspired work has not only resulted in sales growth locally but has also brought global renown to South African wine, Chenin Blanc in particular. 

Rydal Jeftha, CEO and Managing Director of the Koopmanskloof Vineyards and winner in the Growing Inclusivity category, has a passion for emerging generations of farmers and winemakers and is a mentor and inspirational leader to multitudes of young people – creating a sense of hope and future focus for those who may face barriers to enter the industry. 

The behind-the-scenes work of Wendy Jonkers, Administering Officer of the Liquor Products Act and winner in the Wine Advancement category, has significantly contributed to opening doors for the South African wine industry internationally. Without the dedication and expertise of role players like her, the industry would find it difficult to advance consistently and sustainably.

Dr Erna Blancquaert, Viti- and Viniculture category winner, is a lecturer in Grapevine and Wine Sciences at Stellenbosch University, and also acts as Postgraduate Supervisor of Masters and PhD students in Viticulture and Oenology, Sustainable Agriculture, and Biotechnology. She was the first black South African to receive a PhD in Viticulture and her tireless devotion to empowerment sees a strong focus on building and supporting a new generation of black researchers and constructively addressing lingering prejudice in the wine industry and academia.

From left to right are Rydal Jeftha (Recognition for Growing Inclusivity), Wendy Jonker (Recognition for Wine Advancement), Ken Forrester (1659 Visionary Leadership Award), and Dr. Erna Blancquaert (Recognition for Viti- and Viniculture).

Toast our natural diversity

There are many reasons to savour South Africa’s outstanding wines, including the new harvest!

February and March is the time when the new South African Cape grape harvest happens. Protecting the country’s abundant biodiversity is a universal priority. South African wine producers big and small, from coast to coast, are keenly aware that they are guardians of the land upon which they ply their trade. 

Wine in the making at Groot Constantia

South Africa’s varied and much-loved natural floral kingdoms deserve appreciation, as 95% of its wine growing takes place in the unique habitat of the Cape Floral Kingdom. Maintaining a balance between nature and farming is essential. It makes South Africa unique when it comes to wines of origin and wine-growing terroirs, which are the heart and soul of South Africa’s wine industry and eloquently express the extraordinary wealth of the country’s wines.

Celebration of wine heritage contributes to future growth

The wine sector annually contributes R55 billion to the GDP and employs more than 265 000 people. The celebration of the Wine Harvest Commemorative Event provides a further platform to promote South African wine sales and wine tourism. It is thanks to role players such as these, and those they support, that South African wine lovers can enjoy a proliferation of many of the best wines in the world.

Anyone anywhere in the world can go to to learn more about the Wine Harvest Commemorative Event, the honourees, and the South African wine industry. Raise a glass to toast 364 years of award-winning South African Wine and Cape grape harvests with #HappyBirthdaySAWine #ToUs #SAWineSince1659 #sawineharvest2023 and #DiscoverCTWC.

Info & images supplied

Read about sustainable wine production at Groot Constantia in conversation with Floricius Beukes