Vinpro and Stellenbosch University revive experimental vineyards

Rico Basson, Vinpro managing director; Francois Viljoen, Vinpro; Dr Benoit Divol, SU; and Professor Danie Brink, SU.

Stellenbosch University (SU) has partnered with the South African wine industry body, Vinpro, to drive the revival of its experimental vineyards, to facilitate practical skills transfer.

The Welgevallen/Vinpro Vineyard Project will see 4.92 ha of new vines planted in August next year, replacing all current vines, except for a commercial block that is currently in use.

Six distinct experimental vineyards will be established to demonstrate specific aspects to the students and researchers at the university’s department of viticulture and oenology. These include winemaking, trellis systems, pruning, new cultivars, clones and rootstocks, an irrigation block and a table grape trellis programme.

The SU’s faculty of agrisciences funds the project and has appointed Vinpro to drive it over the next three years, as part of its Gen-Z Vineyard Project which aims to facilitate skills transfer through practical demonstrations and vineyard trails.

“By partnering with Vinpro on the Welgevallen renewal project, we’ve managed to close the gap between the academia and the private sector, while creating a platform for innovation and creative learning,” said Professor Danie Brink, dean of the faculty of agrisciences. 

“It is a privilege for us as an industry to help put together a world-class site that will take tertiary education and training in viticulture and oenology to the next level. We also look forward to the synergies that will flow from this partnership into other areas for collaboration,” said Vinpro MD, Rico Basson. 

Dr Benoit Divol, head of the SU’s department of viticulture and oenology, says the re-establishment of the Welgevallen vineyards coincides well with a new, more forward-thinking curriculum which integrates theory with practice. “The students will definitely benefit from practical exposure to the variety of cultivars and techniques showcased in these new vineyards,” he said. 

To project leader, Francois Viljoen, it’s important that winemakers, viticulturists and other industry role-players support their alma mater by sharing their knowledge, practical learnings and networks with the next generation. “We would like to invite any input suppliers or other industry role-players to collaborate with us on the project in terms of their expertise, products or services,” he said. 

For more information, contact Emma Carkeek on 021 276 0429 or emma@vinpro.co.za