Cape Winemakers Guild drives industry transformation with protegé winemaker programme & auction

The Cape Winemakers Guild and Strauss & Co. auctioneers are punctuating South Africa’s heritage month with two calendar highlights – the 38th Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) Auction which goes live over 30 September to 1 October and alongside it the CWG Protégé Programme Auction from 26 September to 3 October 2022. Together they signify one of South Africa’s longest-standing industries and flagship exports, valued at R10.2-billion per annum, and a space of innovation increasingly growing in diversity, inclusivity and global reputation.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the CWG, founded in 1982 to raise the benchmark for South African wine, with the ethos of sharing knowledge and ideas to ensure that members remain leaders in the art and science of winemaking, while offering industry support. At present, there are 42 members who make up some of the country’s most highly esteemed winemakers.

In 2006, the guild established the CWG Protégé Programme  –  a three-year internship designed to fuel young talent and broaden opportunity and innovation in the South African wine industry through mentorship, skills transfer and practical experience of the selected winemaking (oenology) and viticulture graduates. Proceeds from the CWG Protégé Programme Auction contribute towards funding the programme.

This year, leading local auction house Strauss & Co is hosting both auctions for the first time, with the Nedbank CWG Auction taking place over two days at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West, at the events of Friday evening (30 September) and Saturday daytime (1 October) where guests will be able to bid in person and online with Strauss & Co. The auction sees 30 members produce 43 rare and unique wines presented in small quantities exclusively for the auction. All wines up for auction are on offer on both days, with more of the smaller-sized lots on the Friday evening. 

Running in tandem is the CWG Protégé Programme Auction  –  taking place entirely online on the Strauss & Co website for a week – where three young winemakers who have been mentored by leading South African winemaking stalwarts from the guild are included in a coveted line-up of wines from guild members, including unique collections, rare verticals and wines that are no longer available.

“An important part of the Cape Winemakers Guild is investing in the future of the wine industry. Their Protégé Programme directly addresses past inequalities and Strauss & Co hopes to see these young protégés on the main auction in time to come,” says Roland Peens, wine specialist, Strauss & Co.

Since its inception, 31 individuals have completed the programme and all now have leading winemaking positions, run their own wine projects or have winemaking roles in the industry.

The oenology graduates in the programme are paired with a different winemaker from the guild for each year of the programme and produce wine under their mentor’s guidance at their respective winery. These wines are made available for auction on at the Protégé Programme Auction this September.

Kiara Scott, a CWG Protégé from 2014-17 mentoring under David Nieuwoudt, Charles Hopkins and Duncan Savage, is one such young winemaker hailing from the Cape Flats and advancing through the internship programme to become first assistant winemaker to Duncan Savage and now head winemaker at Brookdale Estate in Paarl. Kiara is a podium winner this year in international wine critic Tim Atkin’s MW SA Wine Report, with her Brookdale Mason Road Syrah 2021 winning Best Value Red of the Year.

“Since graduating I feel like the door has been opened,” says Kiara of her experience with CWG. “I am so grateful to the Protégé Programme. They are so invested  –  it’s not something that they just do, they care about you.

To me, paying it forward would be taking what I know and going out and telling people, winemaking is something that you can do. It’s not something that’s out of reach or that’s reserved for certain people. If you want to do it you can do it.”

David Nieuwoudt, CWG member since 2005, says: “What I’ve realised after 17 years is that the Cape Winemakers Guild is all about knowledge sharing and what we invest in the industry through skills development and really mentoring young dynamic winemakers  –  and to drink amazing wines every day of your life is just spectacular. Winemaking is not a career, it’s the most beautiful lifestyle.”

“One of the things I learned from David,” says Kiara “is that if I cannot do it I cannot expect someone else to do it, so whether it’s vineyard work or cellar work, I need to know how to do every single aspect. The same goes with winemaking  –  no one can tell you how you made your wines. You need to be on top of that process. You are the winemaker.”

“David is a phenomenal winemaker,” she goes on to say. “He’s super passionate, he’s hard-working. I don’t know anybody who’s driven that Cederberg road more than him. He showed me as a young winemaker what it takes. It’s not flashy, it’s not glitz and glam, winemaking is hard work  –  and what you put in you definitely get out.”

This year’s young winemakers featuring on the Protégé Programme Auction are Anique Ceronio, whose 100% Shiraz on auction is made under the guidance of Charles Hopkins at De Grendel; Kyle Davids, who paired with Glenelly’s Luke O’Cuinneagain and produced a Bordeaux-style blend; and Thabile Cele, whose Riesling was made at Hartenberg Estate with the mentorship of winemaker Carl Shultz.

“I feel proud when I see these youngsters make it through the Protégé Programme into the industry,” says Gordon Newton Johnson, chairman of the CWG and trailblazer of the Hemel-en-Aarde wine valley. “I feel they’re better prepared, more talented and more capable than I was at the same age. The internship goes beyond winemaking/viticulture into a more holistic approach, making sure they have everything they need to compete in the highly competitive world of wine. Public speaking, financial management, tasting training with old vintages and some of the best wines in the world, are just some of the courses they undergo in trying to shape a well-rounded individual for the challenges out there. They are able to call on 40+ of the best winemakers in the country for anything, in a profession where experience is paramount. One of the main purposes of the CWG is not only to inspire and uplift each other, but to usher in the next diverse generation of winemakers for a vibrant South African wine industry.”

“The programme is a meaningful way to make an impact within the industry and create scope for the talent pool to expand. It is also crucial in paving the road to success for those aspiring to have a transformative career within the wine industry. The programme is also a meeting point for the members and the ‘rootstock’ of the wine industry – those who need to glean time and wisdom from winemakers who can share their knowledge and practical tips,” says Mike Brown, Chief Executive of the Nedbank Group.

“As the leading auction house in South Africa, Strauss & Co is delighted to partner with the Cape Winemakers Guild in offering these rare, bespoke and class-leading wines to the market. The Cape Winemakers Guild has spearheaded the wine industry for the last four decades in driving the overall quality SA wines. Using the momentum Strauss & Co has gained in the secondary market in partnership with Wine Cellar fine wine merchants, in establishing liquidity and price discovery, we hope to develop the guild even further,” says Roland Peens, Strauss & Co.

On the wine selection this year he says: “This year’s guild auction offering shows a renewed embrace of the diversity of styles and innovation in production that wines from the Cape can offer. There truly is something in the catalogue for every taste.”

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