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Danie de Wet

Danie De Wet is recognised as the pioneer of white wine cultivars in South Africa and for his role in ensuring the industry's international competitiveness in the fields of vineyard practices, excellence in winemaking technology and promoting new grape cultivars.

Born on 27 August 1949 on the De Wetshof Wine Estate, Danie was educated at the Jan van Riebeeck High School in Cape Town. From an early age he showed an interest in farming and his natural surroundings on De Wetshof and initially considered a career in veterinary science.

But the magic of the winemaking process, which was then carried out on De Wetshof by his father, Johann, captured his imagination. And during his final high school years he urged his father to support his plans of studying viticulture and cellar in the heartland of European winemaking so as to gain broader approach to the wines and vineyards of the world.

From 1969 to 1971 Danie studied Viticulture and Cellar Technology at the world-famous Geisenheim Wine Institute in Germany. Exposed to a diversity of cultivars, the latest technologies and a scientific approach to winemaking, he returned to South Africa committed to introducing new and improved plant material to the wine landscape. His aim was in joining forces with other wine makers in showing the world that the country is capable of making premier white wines.

In 1972 De Wetshof became the first registered wine estate in the Robertson region and began producing the valley's first dry white wines, namely Rhine Riesling, Cape Riesling (Crouchen Blanc), Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.

During his travels through Europe as a student, Danie fell under the spell of Burgundy and especially the noble Chardonnay grape. In 1981, after exhaustive experimentation and plant selection, De Wetshof became the first winery in South Africa to commercially market both Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in the country.

The quality of these "new" wines were quickly recognised. In 1984 the De Wetshof Sauvignon Blanc 1984 was named South African Champion White Wine. International recognition followed, with the De Wetshof Chardonnay 1985 being awarded the Grand Prix D’Honneur at the Vinexpo in Bordeaux, France.

Danie's role in establishing the Robertson region as an area conducive to fine wine production led to his being awarded the inaugural Pon van Zyl Trophy for Outstanding Service to the Robertson Region in 1987.

Other awards include the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year (1993), the State President's Export Award for Export Achievement (1993 and 2001) and the British Wine Writers Association International Winemaker of the Year (1995).

Besides building De Wetshof into one of South Africa's premier wine estates, Danie has been involved with various industry bodies aimed at spearheading winemaking excellence. The positions he has held include membership of the SA Wine and Spirits Board, director of Winetech and the first chairman of VinPro.

Danie also served as chairman of the KWV Group Limited from 2004 to 2009.

De Wetshof's ties to the French wine industry has led to Danie having been inducted into the Commanderie du Bontemps de M'doc, Graves, Barsac et Sauternes in Bordeaux as well as well as the Chevaliers du Tastevin in Burgundy.

Since 2006 Danie has held a Celebration of Chardonnay event at De Wetshof. This bi-annual event aims to celebrate the quality and diversity of South African chardonnay and is a highlight on the wine calendar.

Danie is married to Lesca de Wet. They have two sons, Johann and Peter who are both actively involved on De Wetshof. www.dewetshof.co.za


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