The Cape Winemakers Guild held its exclusive annual auction in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape.

It recognised industry role-players for putting South African wine-makers on the international stage and celebrated the Guild’s role in 24 protégés from disadvantaged backgrounds taking up careers in the industry.

Now in its 34th year the auction attracts both local and international wine collectors.

It is winemakers like Ettienne le Riche that got the guild off the ground in the 80’s. This will be his last auction.

“It’s been magnificent. I’ve been a founding member since the 80’s and I’ve had wines on auction all those years. Mainly cabernet, always the same wine and throughout it’s been a satisfactory journey.”

Le Riche’s departure opens up opportunities for young and upcoming winemakers like Sydney Mello from Limpopo.

He’s in his final year of the Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé programme.

“The programme is really amazing. It really changes lives. You have to be a hard worker and you have to be determined. It’s not an easy job, sometimes you start at 7 and end at 4 the next day. You need perseverance.”

Efforts have been made to transform the wine-making industry that’s still dominated by white males.

Boela Gerber, Chairman of the Cape Winemakers Guild says the economy and the land debate are other issues that will impact on the industry.

“There is a lot of conversation in our country around land in our country at the moment. The guild with many visionaries started this all those many years ago for social upliftment mainly through education.”

There are 48 wines on auction this year with a total of 2000 cases.

It is a collective effort to promote South African wines where they are not competing with each other but with countries such as Australia, Chile and New Zealand.