Thursday, 5 October, 2017
WOSA Blog, Malu Lambert
“I was born on a gold mine,” says wine industry stalwart, David Hughes. The late afternoon sun slides through the blinds of his home study, lighting up the occasional mote of dust as well as the gilded lettering on books in the shelves.

Dave has worn many hats throughout his long career - from being a distiller, winemaker, wine auctioneer, international wine and spirit judge to being the founder of the Cape Wine Academy and author of many wine and spirit books.

The din of barking dogs - prompted by my arrival - has died down, and the tranquillity of the Stellenbosch’s Devon Valley takes hold instead. There is, of course, thee occasional yap, or an under-the-breath growl from one of the many, many dogs (around 12). I can’t really keep track - t’s much like arriving at a party and being introduced to everyone at once. The three that remain with us in the room are Taxi (named so as he’s bad at directions), Lucky (to be alive after surviving a fire), and Bristle, the oldest, and I guess, the bristliest of the lot - who is also the most famous with a wine brand named after him. Bristle Wines, are the domain of Dave’s wife Lorna Hughes (the pair have been married for 15 years). Though these days Lorna no longer runs the wine company, she focuses solely on her work as GM at The Animal Welfare Society of Stellenbosch. Apparently there are a few cats somewhere around here too.

But back to that goldmine. Dave was born in 1938 in Gatoomadistrict, which was in then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), on the border of Mozambique in a house that was built nearby a goldmine. “My dad at the time had a general trading store. But after he got injured in World War II, he spent the rest of his life in creative pursuits, painting and the like.” His admiration for his dad is clear. “He was a linguist, he could speak any language. At one stage he even was a cowboy in the circus, cracking whips and lassos. One of his last jobs was to paint the background scenes for the dioramas in the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo.

“Sadly neither my brother [who was seven years older] nor I inherited any of his many talents.” Not even Dave knew where his own path would lead.

“I had no intention of ever getting involved with winemaking.” The plan was first geology. But that got interrupted when he was called up to join the military. He then decided to join the permanently. He was given a couple of week’s leave before he was due to head overseas for training. “My dad said ‘you can’t just sit around’.” That led to a part-time job at a distillery (Africa Distillers) in Umthali.

To read more online, click here.

Thomas Davidson

Thomas joined wine.co.za in May 2019 after graduating from Stellenbosch University with a BA in History & Ancient Cultures and completing a certificate in Business Management and Entrepreneurship at the Graduate School in Stellenbosch. He moonlights as a radio presenter at MFM - and has an incredible passion for wine. 
We are delighted to have him on the team.
David Hughes
David Hughes

more news