The country’s best wine writer for 2022 is Shandré van der Merwe, tasting room Manager at De Wet Cellar outside Worcester, while the runner-up is Petri de Beer, until recently senior winemaker at Longridge Winery near Somerset West.

The results of this competition, now in its tenth year, were announced at a function at the Lanzerac Hotel, Stellenbosch, where Ms Van der Merwe and Mr De Beer respectively bagged R15 000 and R7 500 for their winning entries out of five in total. 

The SA Wine Writer of the Year is open for writers 35 years old or younger and presented by the South African National Wine Show Association (SANWSA) – which runs the SA Young Wine Show, Veritas Awards and SA Terroir Competition – aiming to identify smart new voices in the wine industry. 

The competition was judged in two categories, one for wine-related magazine print articles and one for web blogs, dealing with one of five prescribed subjects.

Shandré van der Merwe’s overall winning entry was a magazine article on the subject The Future of E-Commerce in Wine and she expounded the angle that while the Covid-19 pandemic brought many challenges to billions around the world, “one of the few silver linings that emerged was the boom of the e-commerce industry”. 

She concluded, “Perhaps the real strength in online sales lay in ensuring wineries create returning customers by expanding on the foundation the tasting room has already laid down. Buying wine online is undoubtedly another pandemic-era shift that is poised to stick around. Either way, the future for e-commerce is bright, and with the exceptional wines offered in South Africa, wineries hitching their wagons to the e-commerce star are bound to see an influx in online sales.”

Van der Merwe, born and bred in Worcester, matriculated here from Montana High School and started her career in 2015 with a customer-facing position in the banking industry. This was followed by five years as accommodation and events manager at Leipzig Country House & Winery in the Nuy Valley and thereafter managing De Wet Cellar’s tasting room, planning and co-ordinating all events, wine tastings and sales. 

The runner-up, Petri de Beer, also in a magazine print article, dealt with the subject Organic wine, friend or fad?

He wrote, “To move from the fringes of agriculture into a full-fledged niche market is no easy feat. But somehow this is exactly wat organic farming has achieved. Organic farming happens to be one of these diversification options and it has gained popularity over the last two decades, making it impossible to ignore the possibilities it offers.”

“For now, organic is a friend (for some a mere acquaintance). But we need to tread lightly – it might become a fad that derails the future of sustainable wine production,” wrote De Beer who holds, among others, an MSc Agric in Oenology from Stellenbosch University. 

Based in Kuils River today, De Beer matriculated from Potchefstroom Gymnasium in 2007 before enrolling at Stellenbosch for a BSc Agric in Viticulture & Oenology. 

He boasts a strong technical background and specialised experience in the field of winemaking, agriculture, economics and strategic planning, having worked in various positions at leading local wineries and a stint at Loose Weingut (Germany).

The 2022 judging panel comprised seasoned wine journalists Wanda Augustyn, Cassie du Plessis, Danie Keet, Neil Pendock and Maryke Roberts, who agreed that the 2022 entries were of a significantly higher standard than last year when an overall winner was not named. 

Wanda Augustyn, editor of WineLand Media says, “WineLand magazine started off as a platform to the wine industry to inform and educate. More recently we’ve shone the spotlight on young talented professionals in the wine industry in our 30 Under 30 Challenge to help pave their way to excellence. Now we want to find new voices to join the more familiar ones, to give new writers and communicators a chance to give their own distinctive take on the world of wine.”

Most of the topic choices on the list were covered and the scores, with only one blog entered, were quite close. Interestingly, a number of entries were from aspirant wine writers that are working in the industry but without official training as writers. 

The judges felt it’s good to see after ten years of the competition, there is still an appetite for new writers to come to the fore – for whom it should be gratifying to see the winning entries being published in WineLand.

Said SANWSA chairperson Christo Pienaar, “The industry needs new voices to write about SA wine and tell the many good stories to connect with the next generation of consumers and wine lovers.”


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