The practice of annually honouring a handful of industry leaders once again took place at this year’s 27th Veritas Awards ceremony at the CTICC on Friday, 6 October. These awards are all about recognition and giving back to those who served this industry over the years – to acknowledge their commitment and pay homage to their remarkable achievements.
Four luminaries were nominated to receive the 2017 Living Legends scroll of honour for their dedication, enthusiasm and passion for the local wine and brandy industries.
Walter Finlayson was born in Cape Town and studied Animal Husbandry in West Scotland before bringing his first ten Ayrshire stud cattle back with him on an ocean liner.
Walter started making wine at Hartenberg, then known as “Montagne” in 1962. In 1975 he moved to Blaauwklippen, where he planted vineyards and built the winery for his old school friend Graham Boonzaier.
The highlight in these early years for Walter was to receive the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award in 1981 and 1982 for Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon respectively.
Walter was one of the eight founding members of the then “independent” Cape Winemakers Guild with Billy Hofmeyr, Jan Coetzee, Neil Ellis, Peter Finlayson, Etienne le Riche, Kevin Arnold and Achim von Arnim.
Walter decided to acquire his own farm and bought a rundown one in the then unfashionable Klapmuts area in 1985. He named this farm Glen Carlou and produced world-renowned wines on the estate. He was joined by his son, David, in 1994. He sold Glen Carlou in 2003 and retired in 2007.
Nicky Krone and the Krone family from Twee Jonge Gezellen in Tulbagh are pioneers in the industry. His father, NC Krone, was highly respected in the wine world and one of the first to introduce cool fermentation in South Africa.
Nicky studied at both Elsenburg and Geisenheim in Germany. He took over the winemaking at Twee Jonge Gezellen and continued to make outstanding wines on the family estate.
He was a member of the Estate Association and served on the board of Groot Constantia for many years. He was instrumental in saving the heritage of Groot Constantia by ensuring that the estate was not sold for housing development.
He was a founder member and president of the SA Cap Classique Association where he laid the foundation for the success of MCC wines in South Africa. He won the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award in 1999 for his MCC.
Giel Swiegers hails from the Transkei and graduated from the University of Stellenbosch with a BSc degree in viti- and viniculture. He started his winemaking career at Franschhoek Cellar before moving to McGregor Cellar. After ten vintages there he was appointed general manager, first at Spruitdrift and then Vredendal Cellar. He also spent six years with KWV as division manager responsible for concentrate and bulk wine exports. He became an international wine broker in 2002.
During his career he was also responsible for developing the enzyme “cloridase” with dr Piet Cilliers in 1975.
He spearheaded a number of ‘firsts’ during his time at McGregor and Spruitdrift, among others, the first MCC by a co-operative winery. He promoted the planting of new cultivars in the Olifants River region and by 1988 the first Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Ruby Cabernet and Pinot Noir were planted. He was responsible for the first Namaqua wines to be exported.
A dry red blend from these cultivars won Vredendal Cellar the General Smuts Trophy for the Best Young Wine in South Africa in 1994 under Giel’s guidance.
Hugo van der Merwe started his career of 36 years in the industry in KWV’s Legal Administration department, working on, among others, the Wine of Origin System.
He was appointed secretary of the Wine and Spirit Board at Nietvoorbij in 1990 until his retirement last year.
During this period of 26 years he was the link with the industry and played many roles to ensure the smooth running of the Wine and Spirit Board. He was chairman of the Label Committee, secretary of the Board, the Executive Committee of the Board, the Legal Committee and also more than 90 work groups during this time.
He was directly involved in many discussions and meetings of committees between the Board, the industry and the Department of Agriculture on many aspects involving the law on Liquor Products and other legislation. –Press release
Read more about the winners of the Veritas awards here: