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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Christian Davis

The empowerment of manual workers in the vineyard or in the winery, be they foreign or from disadvantaged groups, is an issue not solely the problem of South Africa, according to Michael Fridjhon, South Africa's most respected wine writer. Speaking at the Wines of South Africa seminar What the Future Holds on 14 October, during the generic tasting at Lord's Cricket Ground in London. He said that the issue of black empowerment had been a ball and chain, a millstone' for South African producers, but the emergence of a black capitalist class in the country was providing a catalyst for catapulting the country into the future'. He continued: Australia and California will have to address the same issues. The Aboriginal people, for example, have not been incorporated into Australian society.' Fridjhon stressed that South Africa was not taking the moral high ground as the pace of change is not as quick as he would have liked, but they were addressing the issues and a positive was that they had a highly competitive work force making hand-crafted wines'. Earlier, he had described leafroll virus, which is endemic in the Cape winelands, as having been the greatest retarding factor' in the progress of Cape wine. He blamed infected planting material that came from the old KWV when it was a regulatory body with a monopoly. He said South African producers were now getting clean planting material and needed to move towards a surplus of virus-free fruit so that the winemakers could reject poor-quality grapes.