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Stellenbosch Wine Routes – the dawn of a new era

Wine route embarks on an exciting third-generation chapter

The Stellenbosch Wine Routes board has elected Mike Ratcliffe as its new chairman and under his leadership, the board looks forward to leading the way for increased collaboration, growth opportunities and impactful social development. A total of four additional board members were appointed to the leadership of the association at the 2018 AGM.

Kobus Basson resigns as chairman of the organisation he joined in 2002 and led since June 2016. His solid leadership and commitment to sustainability and building long term profitable growth are hallmarks of his tenure.

As chairman, Kobus was the driving force behind the step-change and rebalancing the organisation. He has made a significant contribution in leading the process.

“The Stellenbosch Wine Routes has a rich history and great track record since 1971,” he says. “When I took over as chairman a few years ago we started the process to transform the organisation into a rejuvenated and stronger structure able to deal with the challenging but also very exciting future on behalf of the Stellenbosch grape and wine producers.”

“Our aim was to create a model able to mobilise all possible resources and get all producers to function under one umbrella, with one goal – marketing brand Stellenbosch as South Africa’s premier wine region.

“After a two-year process of workshops and meetings, we believe we are now at the point to start from 1 July with a new structure and new focus. We have changed the composition of our board of directors and will appoint new directors to represent the younger generation and a new mentor class. We believe it is critical to involve more of our younger members and use the new energy. I am therefore very happy to step down as chairman and hand over to Mike Ratcliffe. I look forward to the future developments,” says Kobus.

He adds: “Mike is a highly successful businessman with a formidable track record gained in a competitive industry. I have no doubt Stellenbosch Wine Routes and the greater wine region will greatly benefit from his knowledge, experiences and commitment to growth and sustainability.”

Mike Ratcliffe says he is pleased to be entrusted with a leadership responsibility in this established and historic organisation. “I look forward to working closely with an accomplished board to elevate Stellenbosch wine to even greater heights. We stand on the shoulders of giants.”

In addition to their distinguished wine growing and production experience, the new board members of the Stellenbosch Wine Routes – David van Velden of Overgaauw, Chris Boustred of Remhoogte and Kevin Arnold of Waterford – bring a balanced perspective on marketing, growth and transformation in the wine industry.

Stellenbosch, as a collective brand, has been the market leader in the South African wine category over the past few decades; both in terms of wine quality and wine tourism innovation.

Some of the recent accolades collected by Stellenbosch include 30 out of 40 top-scorers in the Prescient Cabernet Sauvignon Report; bringing home eight of the 15 Golds awarded to South Africa in the Decanter World Wine Awards; at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, receiving nine trophies including Most Successful Producer Overall; three Shirazes in the SA Shiraz challenge; and, a Stellenbosch producer being named top New World producer in the UK Sommelier Wine Awards.

The board of directors believes that for the association to achieve its objectives and strengthen its membership commitment and positioning as the leading and essential member organisation, it needs to implement a sustainable funding model together with improved productive structures.

A cornerstone attraction to millions of tourists every year, Stellenbosch has made its influence felt in numerous fields. As for a premium wine offering, Stellenbosch has had one of the longest associations with viniculture in the country. When it launched the wine route in 1971, it was the first in the country to establish such an organised network.

More about Mike Ratcliffe:
The long-standing Managing Director of Warwick Wine Estate in the Simonsberg ward of Stellenbosch. Co-founder and Managing Partner of the joint US/South African venture Vilafonté since 2001. Mike has been nominated for the Wine Star Award for Global Innovator of the Year in 2015 and then again in 2017.

Mike is founding Trustee of the Cape Wine Auction and has held numerous leadership positions including serving on the board of Wines of South Africa. Mike is the founder of Rootstock, the 20 year old communal organisation supporting young entrants to the South African wine industry.
Mike graduated in the first wine marketing class at Adelaide University and is an international wine judge, public speaker, industry commentator, social media maven and marketing trendsetter.