Fredo has uncovered some amazing stories in table grape breeding and research dating back to a century ago. Dr. A. I. PEROLD, the Government Viticulturist for the Union of South Africa, did some sterling work not only on new cultivars, but also in production and pruning practices, at the old government research farm at Paarl.
[divider]Fredo will write more about the Profs amazing work in the new book on the history of table grapes in South Africa, but it is sufficient to say that this work took place more than one hundred years ago and many of the practices developed by him are still relevant today.
Part of Prof Perold’s story is also the story of Barlinka, which was the dominant variety in South Africa during the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. A number of varieties, at different times, in fact, saved South Africa’s grape growers and made them oodles of money.
Speaking of Barlinka, Alex van Niekerk, one on the industry’s best loved characters, once told Fredo a delightful story about Barlinka wine. Alex was a true grape industry leader during the 1970’s and sadly passed away in the early 1980’s when he had so much more to give.
We will cover much about ‘Oom Alex’ in our book, as we will do about the characters if his time in the Hex River and Paarl Valley. There was ‘Oom Fanie, Oom Stefaans, Oom Jan Rabie‘ and the soft spoken Sir David Graaff, politician of note and son of the well-known Sir De Villiers Graaff. David, always with his pipe not far away, would enthral the English and French alike with his statesman-like speeches when they visited our shores.
[divider]We spent some time with the forth-generation Sir De Villiers Graaff, grandson of Sir Div, opposition leader in South Africa during the 70’s and 80’s, and son of Sir David Graaff, who eventually left the table grape industry and retired as Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry when the government of national unity ended in our new democracy.
In Paarl we spent time with Oom Aat Hoekstra and found the journal of Oom Jan Kirsten – and further afield had coffee with Oom Martin van Niekerk – 91 years old and still a dedicated table grape grower. Oom Martin told us of his encounter with the one and only Ronnie Reagan, American President.
We are now coming to the end of the research period which took us across the industry, but we have some more calls to make. From now on, as the industry start harvesting its new crop, and through Christmas, we will be writing at a rate of knots to get the manuscript done.