Lunch with Günter Brözel in celebration of his 90th birthday

Friday, 17 May, 2024
Christine Rudman
Wine industry legend Günter Brözel turned 90 on 3 April. His closest industry friends celebrated him at a birthday lunch on 5 May at Ghenwa's at Lourensford, Somerset West.

Günter Brözel's 90th birthday lunch was the brainchild of Newald Marais of Kranskop, Bennie Howard of Meerendal, and Koos Jordaan of Lourensford. They knew exactly who to invite: People who had worked with Günter, plus esteemed industry colleagues. Because of Günter’s age, and the fact that the function honoured history, many of the people there were retirees, although clearly still aware of industry matters. Gunther turned 90 on 3 April, and the celebration was planned for 21 April, but due to the big storm that hit the Cape that day, it was postponed to early May.

It took place on Sunday, 5 May 2024 at Ghenwa's Culinary Club, the Lebanese restaurant at Lourensford, Somerset West, which closed to the public for the occasion. We were 15 around the table, and obviously the conversation was wine-oriented, with Gunther astutely commenting on current and past affairs, local and abroad, showing his admirable memory, that he was still informed and had kept up to date. He was especially interested in the strategic decisions that had affected the direction of the wine industry.

As you can imagine, there was plenty of wine, brought by the guests and donated by the industry, and some of particular interest, like a 10-year old Nederburg Weisser Riesling (demonstrating ageability), and a 1974 Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon, which had earned Gunther the Winemaker of the Year Trophy at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London in 1985. Both were still in excellent condition.

To start, the table was laden with a variety of delicious tapas-type dishes, which encouraged the informality of the occasion, helped people to relax.

And then, obviously, there was Nederburg Edelkeur and Nederburg Eminence, as well as current wines from Nederburg including the Nederburg The Motorcycle Marvel Rhône Blend from the Heritage Heroes collection, named in honour of Günter.

Every guest was asked to share his/her particular memory of Günter, and unsurprisingly there were a lot of similarities in the anecdotes, reflecting his character and working style. The descriptors "generous", "dedicated", "visionary", "hard-working", "inspirational", "integrity", "quality-driven", "wide knowledge", and "charismatic" were frequently used, as well as "difficult" and "combative" when he disagreed with a decision. He had a lot of patience with his staff as well as many aspiring South African winemakers, would spend whatever time he needed teaching them, and never asked of anyone what he himself wasn’t prepared to do, like go without sleep during the harvest, or tackle difficult problems.

It was because of Günter that Nederburg came to represent the best in the industry, and had an international reputation. There were a lot of milestones in his career, like the first Noble Late Harvest, Edelkeur, in South Africa, leading to a wine legislation change, the first winemaker who visited Lucky Michael’s shebeen in Soweto to do a red wine tasting there, particularly of Baronne, opening the wine door to those beer-drinking patrons and today still a firm favourite there 50 years later. He was and is a charismatic speaker who could hold and enchant an audience of any kind, because of his wide knowledge and experience.

Now living in a retirement village in Somerset West, he’s in good health with an active and inquiring mind, as he amply demonstrated to us all at the lunch. The food and wine at the lunch complemented the life of this legend of our industry that arrived in 1956 from Germany and made South Africa his country for life.

Attendees, in alphabetical order:

  • Bennie Howard
  • Christine Rudman
  • Danie de Wet
  • De Wet Viljoen
  • Giorgio Dalla Cia
  • Günter Brözel
  • Hans Losch
  • Henry Kempen
  • Jeff Wedgewood
  • Jenny McQueen
  • Kobus Visser
  • Koos Jordaan
  • Lollie Lourens
  • Newald Marais
  • Sue Wardrop