25 Years of memories at wine.co.za

Monday, 2 August, 2021
Judy Brower | wine.co.za
Founded by Kevin Kidson and Judy Brower, wine.co.za is turning 25 on the 28th August. Join us for a walk down memory lane.

It is quite a thing to give up your well-paying IT jobs, have a baby, travel to the South Pacific while 7 months pregnant and then decide to start a new wine company while living in Hout Bay in 1996, when the word internet hardly existed. People said we were nuts!  Which you have to be to jump into the abyss of unemployment and entrepreneurship at this stage of one's life.

Fast forward 25 years to 2021, and wine.co.za (or wine dot coza as we fondly call it), has become a household name in the wine industry and on the lips of many wine-lovers around the world.  I suppose 100 000 monthly visitors can't be wrong!

There are so many memories which come flooding back, and we will share a few across our platforms in the next few weeks. Please share your #winecoza25 memories with us - email judy@wine.co.za or share on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram

I have included a few of our major achievements and memories below, but in fact could write a book!
 

STARTING OFF WITH WOSA

There are many people who stood up and out for us on our wine journey:

Kim Green, CEO of SAWSEA (South African Wine & Spirits Export Association - which later became WOSA ) - in the late 1990s, asked us to do some research into the export market, as very little was known at the time with South Africa just settling in to its first democracy (1994) and deregulation allowing any winery to export.

We produced a fairly extensive document on HOW TO EXPORT WINE (based on Cathy Brewer's Cape Wine Master's thesis) and also at least 20 COUNTRY PORTFOLIOS, which allowed the South African wine industry to identify global markets for their wine as well as identifying where to set up WOSA offices.

Kim shared some of her vivid memories: 'In those days we had around 110 wine producers who were keen to export. Technology was really basic then and we still used a large automatic fax machine which we programmed to send out at night to communicate with our members as they mostly didn't have internet access. Many would complain that it woke them at night !

Our budgets were small as we were largely funded by a 5c per litre export levy.  And in order to present our wines on the international market we needed a platform  other than overseas shows, which were few and expensive to attend.Overseas buyers were crying out for information.

Enter passionate wine lover and computer geek, Kevin, with his fledgling wine.co.za, which seemed like an answer to a prayer. He had a dream of an online home for SA wines. For this he needed producer info to create a portal where any person interested in SA wine could visit online. And we in turn needed to market the breadth and depth of SA wines to the international market.

Imagine this against the backdrop of wine producers being not yet connected to the internet and not switched on to the possibilities. So the task began to sell the idea first to our Board and then the members. It's amazing that from such humble beginnings, with Kevin and Judy working from home and creating basic static websites for each producer, they have created something in wine.co.za so all encompassing and evolving, and enduring.
Well done on 25 years service to the wine industry.'

WOSA started hosting their Cape Wine exhibitions in 2000, and we were proud to manage the catalogues for WOSA for many shows over the years, as well as many of the international wine shows like Prowein and the London Wine Trade Shows.

The wine.co.za team at CAPE WINE 2002 at Nederburg

 
HOUT BAY TO SOMERSET WEST

The early days (the late 1990s) saw us hosting monthly tastings in Hout Bay at the bowling club, with our first tasting being presented by Orland Firmani, Danie Malan's father-in-law from Allesverloren. Pieter Ferreira and Kobus Deetlefs did us proud then too.

With the new millenium kicking in, wineries upgraded their software and hardware, (being terrified of the apparent Y2K bug).
Kevin spent many an hour during those early years, groveling under desks, setting up winery modems and getting their emails working so that they could get connected to this new world of the internet. Also it helped as we could upgrade our communication with them and discard the good old fax!

We realised that running a wine business in Hout Bay would exhaust us, so in 2001, after an extensive search throughout the winelands, we moved house and office to Somerset West, where we set up office for the team of 4 at the time. We worked in the flat on the side of our home, giving us freedom to be with our kids as required, as well as quick access to the kitchen so that I could whip up a little feast now and then for the team. Many a long discussion was had in our kitchen while enjoying copious glasses of wine!

Our team grew, our premises expanded and rented a warehouse in the Gants Centre in the Strand for a few years, and eventually bought a warehouse in The Interchange in Somerset West.  Our team was a tad horrified when they saw the rough building site we were moving them to as they could not quite visualise our future!.

A brisk renovation saw us move in to our new improved warehouse in Feb 2011, and after we had settled in, Kevin and I took off on a 3 month sabbatical through Europe with our kids and a campervan.  A most wonderful rest and memories were made for life for us all, while our dedicated team held the proverbial fort. Huge thanks to Adele, Garth & Johan for being the backup for us during this time.
  

WORLD'S BIGGEST ONLINE WINE TASTING in early 2000s

A collaboration with WorldOnline saw a series of online wine tastings in about 2001, with Adi Badenhorst (then at Rustenberg), Martin Moore & Krige Visser(Durbanville Hills) and Motti Lewis (Steven Rom Liquors) - our partner in wine sales then.  We managed to get the same wines to various internet cafes across the world, viz London, New York and all over South Africa - where we had over 400 people tasting the same wine online simultaneously, and linking in to the studio at WorldOnline, with Adi causing chaos of course! 

There was no video facility available at the time, and we had text-type chats with an occasional pic of Adi popping into the chat - it was great fun!
 

WINESCAPE MAGAZINE launched in 2003/4

After many many hours working on the Wine Tourism Forum in the early 2000s, we decided to start our own Wine Tourism magazine, WINESCAPE. 
Partners and friends Judy Brower & Lesley Beake launched the first edition in 2003, printing a massive 30 000 copies of the first issue, which was distributed predominantly internationally through Virgin Wines in the UK and was also accepted as one the inflight magazines on Lufthansa.  The quarterly publication again made it accessible for South African Wineries and tourism establishments to reach an international audience, paying in rands for their advertising.  

Contributors included Food Editor Jos Baker, Wine Editor Neil Pendock, Michael Olivier, John Maytham, Tseliso Rangaka, Leone Joubert, Laura Ndukwana, Jay Heale, Graham Howe, Ndlandla Dlamini, Emma Borg, and stunning photography from Neil Corder, the famed Craig Foster (My Octopus Teacher), Mdxisi Madela and many others.  It really was a beautiful mag and I think South Africa could do with another Winescape now in fact!

The magazine was sold to Future Publishing in 2008, and sadly was discontinued by them after a year.

2003: The Winescape Team: Lesley Beake, Jos Baker, Maralise Rupping, Tania Morgan, Cecily Rocher & Judy Brower

 
WINESTATS

Allister Kreft was fresh out of university and we were energised by his enthusiasm to look at starting up a Wine Tourism Survey business, called WineStats.in 2006.

Before long, Kevin and Allister had developed a DL page for visitors to complete when visiting wineries, and we collated all the info (they were posted back to us and we captured all the info) and we reported back to participating wineries on the demographics of their visits and buying habits... also aggregating info for each region.

Sadly the surveys were not valued enough by the industry, and after a year or 2, the system died.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if the wine industry had access to years worth of this kind of information.

Memories from Allister: 'Working with wine.co.za right at the start of my career was such a wonderful experience. Judy and Kevin are just the most fantastic people and also a perfect duo in business. We pioneered a consumer behaviour research project at the cellar door, called Winestats. I was an absolute rookie in all things business and technology, but had some strong opinions on both! Judy shaped the business side, and Kevin the technology elements, and I’ll never forget the thrill of meeting South Africa’s top winemakers and wine minds, and sharing our ideas, and then putting them into practice. It was such a rewarding experience to take an idea and get it moving forward quickly with the wine.co.za team. Apart from the hustle and bustle of working together, they also instilled a healthy respect for a glass of wine and a Judy-catered luncheon! After all, why are we in this industry if we can’t sample the subject of our commercial interests? Judy and Kevin, your values shine through in your business and I can only congratulate you and admire what you continue to achieve in this industry.
Thanks so much for having me as part of the
wine.co.za family in the early days. Keep up all the amazing work and ethos you continue to lead with. I learnt so much and am grateful to you both'

The surveys extended to the many Soweto Wine Festivals we attended, where we managed to gather plenty of useful information for the industry on the wine habits of this growing market of wine lovers.

 
TAKING ON SOCIAL MEDIA IN 2010

Social Media was just rearing its head around then, and we were one of the first to start Social Media campaigns, having employed Serbian Dusan Jelic to take on this new exciting realm of the internet.

Ina Smith - Chair of the Chenin Blanc Association talks about the early days:

'Dusan’s note with this first feedback: “Great communication was maintained with Mrs. Ina Smith and we will proceed to work in synergy with our social media activities further’. Dusan left SA later that year and I took over the full responsibility of our Social media platforms from October 2011. I must admit I was very hesitant to continue without Dusan to hold my hand, but what a learning curve it was!  Without the initial ‘push”, we would not have started that early with our social media journey. 

10 years on!  At present we have 4902 FB fans/followers and 6481 Twitter followers. (3844 IG followers)'

We are proud that our Social Media has grown phenomenally over the years too

Facebook: 14.5k+ fans, Twitter: 18.5k+, Insta: 3.6k+, YouTube: 1100+ subscribers & 250 000 views (not too shabby!)
  

SUPPORTING TEAM SOUTH AFRICA at World Blind Wine Tasting Championships - See more about all the South African Wine Tasting Champs HERE

Having a team representing South Africa at the World Blind Wine tasting Championships was a heady thought, and of course we jumped in to help where we could, providing media coverage and also sponsoring some clothing for the team over the years. Jean Vincent Ridon deserves a medal for the tireless service he has contributed to the South African Wine industry and this initiative is another of his inspiring projects.

TeamSA 2018 - Jean Vincent Ridon (Coach), Captain Anita Streicher-Nel, Pieter de Klerk, Welma Smith, Anton Swarts & Cyril Meidinger

There were a number of Zimbabwean sommeliers who were part of TeamSA, and they entered their own team for the World Champs in 2018, and were then picked up by a film crew, who subsequently have produced the award-winning doccie Blind Ambition, telling the story of these extraordinary chaps who came from nothing and managed to participate in World Championship just a few years after.  We were very pleased to be able to support these brave men on their journey where we could.

TeamZIM 2017 - Marlvin Gwese, Pardon Taguzu, Joseph Dhafana & Tinashe Nyamudoka

 
NOSE YOUR WINE - 2015

Education and raising the bar has always been close to our hearts, and all studies show that people are keen to learn more about wine.

In 2015, I met the 2013 Best Young Sommelier, Xolani Mancotywa, read more HERE, and we combined our passion and produce a series of videos, called NOSE YOUR WINE, to help those starting off on the wine ladder.

Clearly people are hungry to learn and I am very pleased to see that these are some of most watched videos of all time on YouTube

And just recently in June 2021, in collaboration with the wonderful Kunye TheWineWise, we launched our new LEARN pages on wine.co.za, with the first set of Learn Variety Videos focused on Chenin Blanc. Watch this space for more to come.

  
LAUNCHING #wineforgood in 2016

After a Danish journalist highlighted some of the terrible conditions on farms, the wine industry was in shock and with crisis communication not being high on the agenda, I decided we need a space to talk about the wonderful good things which are happening in the winelands, and launched www.wineforgood.co.za - where we tell all the great stories of upliftment, education, transformation and more.

We are very proud to have hundreds of stories told and continue to highlight the good in the industry - please submit your stories HERE.

  
CELLARDIRECT in 2019

Long a dream of Kevin's, we finally launched our Direct to Consumer platform - CellarDirect - making it really simple and easy for wineries to get a wine shop up and running in no time and also being their partners in running their shops. 
We are very proud to have over 60 wineries on board, and I particularly like David Wibberley of Spider Pig's comment 'It's a no brainer - it is simple and effective and efficient.  It works!'   
This sentiment is echoed by the many other wineries we represent and proud to have moved over 31 000 cases of wine since we started CellarDirect in Oct 2019. 
Our mission has always been to cause more wine to be sold, and this really is a significant volume of wine to have moved.

  
DEALING WITH COVID and LOCKDOWNs and Alcohol bans in 2020

What a year it has been, and both wine.co.za and our Direct to Consumer solution, CellarDirect.co.za, were well positioned to respond to the massive influx of orders during the first lockdown in March, April and May 2020!  We had to bring in 15 more staff, hire 2 more warehouses and literally build integrations overnight to scale up to cope.

From a usual 250 orders a month - we suddenly had 6000 to cope with and it was chaos!   Kudos to all our staff who just jumped in and worked almost 20 hour days for weeks on end, some also having to home-school children and babysit at the same time.  With some of our staff already working from home by that stage, it was a relatively simple process to sort out the rest of the team to operate from home... and our clients and customers hardly noticed.

Listen HERE to Bruce Whitfield (Cape Talk / Radio 702) interviewing Judy during the madness
 

AND THE MEMORIES GO ON... AND ON...

  • Starting WineNews - the daily feed which keeps the world abreast of South African and other wine stories. Kudos to all our wonderful editors over the years:  Lesley Beake was our founding editor, followed by Jeanine Wardman, Renee Barnard, Shante Hutton, Nikki Ellis, Carla vd Merwe, Zwai Gumede, Trudie Webb, and a few others inbetween.
  • Gratitude to all our writers over the years, with particular thanks to the indomitable Graham Howe, who must have the longest running wine column in the world - well over 400 articles over the years. Thanks also to the many other contributors; Neil Pendock, Cathy Marston, Dave March, Malu Lambert, Michael Olivier, Tshepang Molisana, Kristina Beuthner and Samarie Smith.(our first Afrikaans articles)
  • Arranging our first Wine auction - thanks to Ken Forrester & Francois Ferreria, we raised money for the National Epilepsy League, and have been supporting them for years buying their very well -made wooden wine crates.
  • We ran the first Dionysis Wine Festival at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Nov 2002 - more HERE
  • Starting our first online wine shop - WineSeller - as a joint venture with Motti Lewis from Steven Rom Liquors
  • Playing in the Winelands Boules League - on many wet Sunday afternoons! One hand had the boule and the other the glass of red wine! A very memorable Ronnie's Sex Shop league finals comes to mind!
  • We have WINE fact sheets going back nearly 25 years for some wines. I doubt that any country in the world has this kind of history.  Take a look at the Raka Quinary - we have 17 years worth of fact sheets, and while celebrating 50 years of MCC in South Africa, it makes sense that we have TONS of fact sheets on the Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel
  • We developed and managed many wineries' websites before it was a thing, and proud to host so many top wineries' online presences.  See our Client Portfolio HERE
  • Our monthly tastings at the Gay Networking sessions, viz Conversations, were legendary. See more HERE & HERE
  • We are proud to have hosted the info for the oldest South African wine competition content (VERITAS) for many years  - see more HERE
  • We launched WineTrader in 2000 - the bulk wine trading platform - facilitating efficient movement of bulk wine within the industry, partnering with Boland Cellars, Gert Bormans & Ansgar Flaatten, before selling it to COLORS in 2008
  • We supported Showcooks' Interhotel Challenge, which became Cape Legends Interhotel Challenge and now Distell's Interhotel Challenge and proud to have a pic of Tinashe Nyamudoka win the first one in 2013
  • We have supported the South African Sommeliers Association since inception with our Spotlight page
  • Travelling around the country attending the Tops Wine Shows was plenty of fun and dressing up, and people remember the feathers they received from us!
  • Over the years we have often worked with Jean Vincent Ridon and his Extreme Wine Pairing Videos were a delight!
  • And JV produced great videos of the ASI Best Sommelier Competitions - with our most viewed video on YouTube being the 2016 World Best Sommelier - showing Jon Arvid Rosengren being put through his paces. Having top somms around the world keeping up with all things wine through wine.co.za is an honour.
  • In 2017, we decided to start a 12-month internship, offering a job to a Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA) graduate for a year. We are about to take on our 3rd intern in Nov 2021, and highly recommend their graduates to anyone needing energetic and dedicated staff.
  • Making a difference in our country is close to our hearts, and we have always supported the wonderful Pebbles Project and StreetSmartSA where we can and love to highlight where change is happening, like the Winetech Study Groups, ensuring Cellar Assistants are recognised and given a platform to learn.
  • When we turned 21 in 2017, we threw a wonderful big braai bash on Braai Day - aka #TasteSunshine day - with trapeze artists, singing, sunshine and more at The Spier Shed - what a party!
  • So many wonderful clients and customers through the years - we are truly grateful to everyone for their support and business through the years.
  •  

We started wine.co.za, we vowed not to be a corporate, and have always valued people and families. Our team are very special to us, and over the years many of those who have left have remained in touch and remained friends. Kevin and I were really touched last month when our team presented us with a Long Service Award - so very special!

We have had the most wonderful team Xmas parties, both at our home and throughout the winelands. Many of our team have been with us for over 15 years - quite an achievement. We salute all our people through the years, as we really could not do it without them.  We are a family.
 

 

Judy Brower

Judy has been running wine.co.za alongside her hubby Kevin Kidson since 1996. She takes photos, attends functions, writes occasionally, sells wine.co.za services, is Mrs HR at the company, cooks yummy lunches from time to time and generally is the glue at wine.co.za

Kevin in our first office - baby & wine in hand in 1996
Kevin in our first office - baby & wine in hand in 1996

Judy & Kevin - 1999 in the first orange office in Hout Bay
Judy & Kevin - 1999 in the first orange office in Hout Bay

wine.co.za 21st #tastesunshine #braaiday (2017)
wine.co.za 21st #tastesunshine #braaiday (2017)

Pieter Ferreira presenting in Hout Bay in late 90s
Pieter Ferreira presenting in Hout Bay in late 90s

Filming Blind Ambition in BoKaap - 2017
Filming Blind Ambition in BoKaap - 2017

2017 - TeamSA & Zim in France
2017 - TeamSA & Zim in France

2013 - Ian Manley with Tinashe Nyamudoka - winning Distell Interhotel Challenge in
2013 - Ian Manley with Tinashe Nyamudoka - winning Distell Interhotel Challenge in

Kevin, Judy & Lesley Beake at Cape Wine 2002 at Nederburg
Kevin, Judy & Lesley Beake at Cape Wine 2002 at Nederburg

Sarah Papenfus & Michelle Ladewig - Cape Wine 2002 at Nederburg
Sarah Papenfus & Michelle Ladewig - Cape Wine 2002 at Nederburg

Ali Julian (Rowley) & Sarah Papenfus at Kirstenbosch Wine Festival - Nov 2002
Ali Julian (Rowley) & Sarah Papenfus at Kirstenbosch Wine Festival - Nov 2002

Judy with PYDA interns Jamie-Lee Appolis, Leroy Matthee & graduate Yoliswa Masekwane
Judy with PYDA interns Jamie-Lee Appolis, Leroy Matthee & graduate Yoliswa Masekwane

The intrepid Jean Vincent Ridon
The intrepid Jean Vincent Ridon

Winelands Boules League Finals  (early 2000s)
Winelands Boules League Finals (early 2000s)

Judy, Francois Ferreira, Wendy Nefdt (Epilepsy League) & Ken Forrester
Judy, Francois Ferreira, Wendy Nefdt (Epilepsy League) & Ken Forrester

Xolani Mancotywa & Judy Brower
Xolani Mancotywa & Judy Brower

Kevin and Judy packing wine the day before Lockdown hit in 2020
Kevin and Judy packing wine the day before Lockdown hit in 2020

Team wine.co.za outing 2019
Team wine.co.za outing 2019

Lesley Beake (Winescape and wine.co.za founding Editor)
Lesley Beake (Winescape and wine.co.za founding Editor)

2011 Team wine.co.za Xmas Party -
2011 Team wine.co.za Xmas Party -

2011 Team wine.co.za Xmas Party
2011 Team wine.co.za Xmas Party

Renee Barnard, Michelle Ladewig & Zwai Gumede (Cape Wine 2012)
Renee Barnard, Michelle Ladewig & Zwai Gumede (Cape Wine 2012)

Kevin (middle) with Higgo Jacobs on right (Cape Wine 2012)
Kevin (middle) with Higgo Jacobs on right (Cape Wine 2012)

Kudzai Dzemwa, Mart du Preez & Adele Dixon (Cape Wine 2012)
Kudzai Dzemwa, Mart du Preez & Adele Dixon (Cape Wine 2012)

Judy Brower with editors; Jeanine Wardman, Renee Barnard & Lesley Beake
Judy Brower with editors; Jeanine Wardman, Renee Barnard & Lesley Beake

Zwai Gumede with his WSET L2 certificate in 2014
Zwai Gumede with his WSET L2 certificate in 2014

Judy & Xolani Mancotywa
Judy & Xolani Mancotywa



Kevin at Cape Wine 2012
Kevin at Cape Wine 2012

Jean Vincent Ridon & Denis Garret
Jean Vincent Ridon & Denis Garret

Sheryl Faure, Carla vd Merwe & Mart-Mari du Preez
Sheryl Faure, Carla vd Merwe & Mart-Mari du Preez

2011 team Xmas party
2011 team Xmas party

2014 team Xmas Party
2014 team Xmas Party

2011 wine.co.za team lunch
2011 wine.co.za team lunch

2013 - wine.co.za team tasting at Waterford
2013 - wine.co.za team tasting at Waterford

2017 - TasteSunshine Braai Day - our 21st
2017 - TasteSunshine Braai Day - our 21st

2020 - wine.co.za team for our 24th birthday
2020 - wine.co.za team for our 24th birthday

Garth & Laverne at wine.co.za 21st - 2017 - #braaiday
Garth & Laverne at wine.co.za 21st - 2017 - #braaiday

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