Change of guard at South Africa’s iconic winery Spier as alcohol industry faces turmoil

SOUTH AFRICA – One of South Africa’s oldest wine farms, Spier, has promoted its long-serving Cellar Master, Frans Smit, to be its Managing Director after 25 years of winemaking and viticultural leadership.

To succeed him is his protégé, Johan Jordaan, the new Cellar Master of the three centuries old winery.

The historic Stellenbosch-based farm, established in 1692, is renowned for developing awarded, quality wines in local and international markets. 

From the vineyards where Spier sources grapes to the cellar producing terroir-driven wines, there’s a well-recognised commitment to the sustainability of people and place. 

Johan will drive this ethos forward and uphold the highest quality standards for Spier’s substantial portfolio of world-class wine ranges which include: Cap Classique, Spier Organic, Signature Collection, 21 Gables, Frans K Smit, among others.

“It’s an honour to serve my team in my new role as Cellar Master, especially as I am keenly aware that I am following in the seasoned and accomplished footsteps of one of South Africa’s leading winemakers.

“It’s a testimony to his incredible mentorship and leadership that as a team, we actively develop talent from within, giving our long-standing members the opportunities to grow on-the-job and follow individual pathways to develop their potential,” said Jordaan.

Raised on a grape farm in Rawsonville, Jordaan went on to study a Diploma in Oenology from Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch.

Having joined Spier in 2007, he has played his role on a wine team that has achieved a long list of industry achievements and accolades.

In 2011, Jordaan received the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year award, reports BizCommunity.

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South Africa alcohol industry at the edge of a cliff

Meanwhile, after a wave of violence and destruction in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which saw 161 liquor outlets and distribution centres looted and damaged, the alcohol industry has called for the ban on the sale of alcohol to be lifted so that legal businesses can operate.

It said the restrictions need to be relaxed to avoid a possible industry-wide collapse – which threatens the livelihood of a million people supported by the sector, reports Business Tech.

“These businesses as well as thousands of others will simply not survive a continued alcohol ban.”

Beer Association of South Africa

South Africa moved to an adjusted level 4 lockdown at the end of June, with a complete prohibition on the sale of alcohol in place.

The alcohol industry has faced various forms of restrictions since South Africa introduced its first Covid-19 restrictions in March 2020, with the government arguing that alcohol consumption leads to increased strain on the country’s hospitals.

Estimates show that the latest four-week ban has put 9,206 jobs in the alcohol industry at risk, with a potential loss of R10.2 billion (US$690m) in taxes and excise duties.

This follows the three previous bans which resulted in over 7,400 jobs lost in the beer industry alone, as well as R14.2 billion (US$960m) in lost beer sales revenue and more than a R7.8 billion (US$527m) loss in taxes and excise duties.

The Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) along with the Liquor Traders Association of South Africa (LTASA) and wine group Vinpro have now written to Trade, Industry and Competition minister Ebrahim Patel requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the devastating impact of the ban, and alternative interventions.

These businesses as well as thousands of others will simply not survive a continued alcohol ban,” said BASA.

“At the same time, we know many South Africans are still obtaining alcohol from the illicit industry, which is already worth R20.5 billion (US$1.3 billion).”

Meanwhile, the Western Cape High Court has reserved judgment on Vinpro’s urgent interim interdict application that would afford the premier of the Western Cape the power to adopt deviations to the national ban to enable off- and on-consumption sale of liquor in the province.

Vinpro Managing Director Rico Basson said they are hopeful for a positive outcome and eagerly awaited feedback on this important principle that would govern decision-making regarding future wine sales bans.

If successful, according to reports by IOL, Vinpro will approach the court to seek similar relief for other provinces.

Still in the same court, a legal bid by South African Breweries (SAB) against government’s latest alcohol sales ban has been dismissed with costs.

Citing a range of technical issues, the brewer contended in its arguments that Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs did not have the necessary powers to introduce the regulations that would suspend the sale of alcohol, and that the move should have been submitted to more scrutiny by parliament. 

But the Judge  dismissed SAB’s application and ruled that the regulations are not inconsistent with existing legislation, and that the minister has the power to suspend the distribution of liquor during in a state of disaster.

The judged also accepted the minister’s contentions that the rapid spread of the Delta variant “justified the lack of full and proper consultation with all the stakeholders, including the SAB”.

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