“I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is you fund research and you learn the basic facts.” – Bill Gates (read more)
Much criticized as it was, the KWV used to fulfil a number of important roles in the SA wine industry. One of which, was being the vehicle of research into plant improvement. And while the SA wine industry had access to this research, it was also home to Professor Sakkie Pretorius, a pioneer in molecular microbiology and biotechnology and the founding Director of South Africa’s Institute for Wine Biotechnology at the University of Stellenbosch.
Things have changed. The role of the KWV is not the same anymore and Professor Pretorius’ efforts and expertise are now being used to great success in Australia. Once the Managing Director of the Australia Wine Research Institute, Professor Pretorius is now Deputy Vice- Chancellor, Research at the Macquarie University. (Also read: The Australian wine industry beneficiary of reverse ‘brain-drain’ (appointment of Director of Research, Professor Isak Pretorius)
The AWRI researches and ensures that the Australian industry stay on top of trends in production, technology and marketing. The South African industry consists of WOSA with an export focus, VinPro with a producer focus and SAWIS with a certification focus and perhaps lack the benefit of a generic research body for all areas of the industry.
Under the leadership of visionary Rico Basson, however, VinPro is increasingly allowing a wider scope – the Wine Industry Strategic Exercise (WISE) being one exceptional example.
VinPro has identified the lack of organised industry research – especially when it comes to viticulture – and at the annual VinPro Producer’s Day introduced the Gen Z project to ensure profitable, sustainable vineyards.
Who are involved?
- VinPro Consultation Services with regional viticulturists to coordinate the project.
- Viticulturist colleagues to assist with planning and execution.
- Producers to get involved with demo blocks, vineyard management and observation.
- Suppliers to sponsor materials and equipment and to assist with execution.
- Researchers to help with knowledge and expertise.
- Winemakers / Cellars to support the project when small scale winemaking is required.
I am excited about this project. Not only does it address a valid concern, it involves all levels of industry and with a name such as Gen Z indicates renewal, innovation and a modern approach – a new generation in the industry to keep the tradition of South African winemaking alive and well.