Looking back over the last 21 years at wine.co.za

Local wine portal, www.wine.co.za, is celebrating 21 years this year, having registered the URL wine.co.za as proud South Africans in the early days in 1996, when the internet was just a buzzword.

Building a business is one thing, but to sustain it for 21 years is quite a feat.

Schoolmates from Queen's College, Kevin Kidson and Chris van Rooyen, started wine.co.za in 1996, with Kevin's wife, Judy Brower, joining in 1999. Chris has lived in Somerset West for many years and in the early days, both Kevin and Chris's branded kombis could be seen around the winelands. Chris is no longer with wine.co.za but remains a good friend.

wine.co.za was started in 1996, when Judy & Kevin still lived in Hout Bay. They thought that having a baby and giving up their real jobs in the IT industry and starting a new company would be just the right thing!  During the early years, they had many a winemaker come out to do tastings at the bowling club, including Adi Badenhorst, Pieter Ferreira, Orland Firmani and Kobus Deetlefs.  After a few years of pounding the highways, the couple decided that they needed to be closer to the winelands and started looking for the ideal place to move to and run the business.

'We looked everywhere within a 2 hour radius of Cape Town, in order to take our business to the next level and also raise our kids. We went on many trips with the little ones in our beloved kombi into the country to test out places like Riebeek Kasteel , Tulbagh & Stanford' - says Judy.

'We eventually settled on our house in Heldervue in Somerset West, which, although hideous at the time, was a perfect spot with an office on the side of the house and close to the R44 and the winelands.  We could have the children at home, be close to the beach, the winelands, Hermanus (near my mum) and the city for our cultural fixes'

'We regularly participated in the Winelands Boules League, and in the early years spent many rainy Sundays playing boules in the mud with one hand holding a glass of wine and the other playing boules!'

Over the years, their home was renovated, the office expanded and in 2011, they took the big step to buy their own warehouse/office space - and moved to Kingfisher Park in the Interchange near Somerset Mall.  They settled their team into the new offices and off the family went, to explore Europe for a 3 month sabbatical in a campervan. Leila was 15 and Miles 12 - an unforgettable family experience.

wine.co.za was initially an information portal only, with its first major job being to produce the Country Market Portfolios for the then WOSA - called SAWSEA in those days (South African Wine & Spirit Export Association).  These were done by Michelle Ladewig, who still works for wine.co.za. During the early years, it was also the first time that many South African wineries were allowed to export their wines (after the demise of Apartheid), and wine.co.za then offered wineries the chance to reach an international market using the internet - using Rands, and not Dollars.  The Rand was very weak in those days - so paying South African Rands to reach an international audience was great value for money. (as it still is!)

After moving to the Helderberg, the business grew steadily, increasing its staff from 4 to 8, and now it employs 12 people, 5 of whom have been with the company for 10+ years.

The business soon expanded to include a WineClub & Shop, first as a partnership with Motti Lewis from Steven Rom Liquors and then later on their own, using a warehouse in the Gants Centre in Somerset West. The online shop was run Sheryl Faure, who is also still with wine.co.za!  

'We started and sold a few businesses during the last 21 years: first WineTrader (our Bulk Wine business which Kevin partnered with Gert Bormans and later Ansgar Flaatten ), and then the magazine Winescape - where I partnered with Lesley Beake - a long-term friend and also our first WineNews editor.  We had a lot of fun, worked hard, learned plenty  (and fast) and published 9 excellent magazines, taking beautiful visuals and stories of the winelands out to the world on Lufthansa flights, in Virgin Wine boxes in the UK and to top guest houses and game lodges.' - reminisces Judy.

'Our WineNews has seen plenty of articles published over the years, and Graham Howe must be the longest-running consistent columnist in the country, publishing over 400 articles since he started writing for wine.co.za!  This must be a world record!'

Lesley Beake was WineNews' first editor, and she remembers the time fondly; 'My secret dream of going to a lot of parties was about to come true, although I didn’t realise it at first. At first what I realised was that I really didn’t know anything about wine, but I really did like editing. I worked with Kevin – and then Judy on Winescape magazine – for eleven years and had a blast. I learned a little bit about wine (and a lot more about canapés) and became a regular at Déjà vu for second-hand party frocks. It was fun.'

Managing information is one of Kevin's fortes and he worked with Allister Kreft, then fresh out of UCT, to develop a Wine Experience Survey and then also worked on surveys at the Soweto Wine Festival for a number of years, gathering valuable information about visitors to the winelands, their buying habits, as well as the emerging black market in Gauteng.

Videos are becoming quite the norm now, but in 2012, they were relatively novel, and much fun was had with their Bare Necessities of Bubbles video - taken at the the Sante Wellness Centre.

Education and empowerment is close to their hearts at wine.co.za, and the Nose Your Wine video series which Judy developed alongside the 2013 Moët & Chandon Best Young Sommelier from 2013, Xolani Mancotywa, has had thousands of views, with its aim being to inform young wine waiters, giving them a safe space to learn the basics about wine and the winelands, also providing tips for serving wine & bubbly.

wine.co.za has generated tons of coverage for various projects they support, viz the the South African Wine Tasting Challenge, the Interhotel Challenge, the SA CellarWorker program, Wine Training SA, SKOP, CWG Proteges, PYDA,  the South African Sommelier Association and are a proud supporter of the Pebbles Project.

They also started their #wineforgood initiative in 2016, to ensure that the good news stories about the wine industry are told and found easily.

'We are incredibly grateful to our team at wine.co.za as well as the industry at large, for continuing to support wine.co.za. Our mission is to ensure that the world has reliable and accurate South African Wine information at their fingertips. Watch this space!'  says Kevin, ever the data specialist!


To celebrate wine.co.za's 21st, the team's Braaimasters are lighting the fires for you to join them on Heritage|Braai Day -as part of their worldwide #tastesunshine initiative - the biggest tasting of South African wine ever held.

Buy your tickets and join the fun #tastesunshine DIY Braai Day Family event at The Shed, off Annandale Road, on Sunday 24th Sept. F

There will be Chenin and Pinotages available for tasting from the various Associations, with #winecoza21 commemorative wines will be on sale, as well as plenty of games and fun activities for the family.
Tickets available online : R120/Adults, R60/Kids - available through Quicket.

This event is part of their massive world-wide wine tasting - where anyone can participate on the day - anywhere in the world.   So, wherever you are - light the fire, invite mates around, open some great South African Wine - let's get as many people around the world to #tastesunshine.

Share your pics of the day using the #tastesunshine and you could win great wine prizes!
Sign up on www.tastesunshine.co.za & get your country on the #tastesunshine map   - with people from 23 countries participating already.

If you have friends living in odd places - share it with them!

If you would like to know more - do contact Judy Brower - judy@wine.co.za


Jude & Kev - Bosses day

2000 Kevin & white branded kombi

2000 Winetrader launch - Judy, Marinda & Rita

Zwai & Pieter baring (almost) all 2013

Boules Champs

Garth & Johan sorting the new office out in 2011

2011 Team lunch

2010 Farewell for Miemie le Roux

2002 Cape Wine - at Nederburg - wine.co.za team

At Calitzdorp for Port Fest - Margie, Judy, Kevin, Thelma, Sarah and Ivy-Lizette in front

2004 Winescape first edition - Lesley, Jos, Marlize, Tania, & Judy