Jan Boland Coetzee with Groot Constantia Chairman, Dr Ernest Messina, accepting the 1659 medal of honour.
Jan Boland Coetzee with Groot Constantia Chairman, Dr Ernest Messina, accepting the 1659 medal of honour.

Wine and sport legend Jan Boland Coetzee honoured with the 1659 medal of honour

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Feb 10, 2020

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Jan Boland Coetzee is a well-loved figure on  the Stellenbosch wine map and his contribution to the wine industry from the time he began his illustrious career back in 1968 is legend.

It's thus small wonder that he added another jewel to his considerable crown of accolades last week when he was awarded the iconic 1659 medal of honour on Thursday at the annual Wine Harvest Commemorative event at Groot Constantia Wine Estate.

Coetzee is a true son of the "Weskus" and grew up on the West Coast. He studied winemaking and graduated from the University oif Stellenbosch with a degree  in Oenology and started making wine at what quickly became the revered Kanonkop wine farm outside Stellenbosch. 

Not only highly skilled in crafting a magical liquid from the fruit of the vine, he proved his sure-footedness on the rugby field  representing the Western Province a whopping 127 times, and also played six games as a proudly- South African Springbok.

In matters vinous, not only his great knowledge of winemaking has earned him great respect in the wine industry, but his contribution to uplifting  workers as well as communities in the winelands.

He was one of the founders of the Rural Foundation in the 1970s. This pioneering organisation strived to better the living and working environment of farm workers and their families. 

Coetzee was also one of the founding members of the Cape Winemakers Guild and a former trustee of the guild's development trust, which also gives back to the community,  particularly through their protégé programme.

Coetzee bought Vriesenhof, against the slopes of Stellenbosch Mountain, in 1980. Still based there today, he's passionate about coaxing the best out of his grapes and also loves hunting, fishing on the West Coast with his grandchildren. 

On the long list of recognition paid to him, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in  natural sciences in agriculture by Stellenbosch University in 2018.

At the warm and relaxed dinner honouring Xoetzee last week. Dr Ernest Messina, chairperson of Groot Constantia, said the 1659 medal of honour has since 1974, been awarded to persons who have made their mark in the wine industry. 

"The 1659 medal of honour for visionary leadership in the industry was instituted to recognise and honour positive contributions. 

“Jan Boland Coetzee makes a constructive contribution to positioning the wine industry at a higher level. The industry is definitely better off because of his vision and involvement. 

"His tangible actions to give greater human dignity, pride and honour to the industry and all its people ... deeply touched people's lives and created a legacy that is hard to erase." He said.

In his speech, Coetzee said “the world's best wines are infused with the spirit of the place, the plants and the people that produce them … especially people with patience, passion, precision and pleasure to share”. 

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