Walking around the streets of Beaune in September and October, one is often exposed to cheerful voices speaking Afrikaans to each other. These voices belong to South African winery and vineyard workers who are brought to Burgundy each year as part of one of the wine world’s unique social upliftment projects.
Since 2001, a number of workers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds have been sent to Burgundy to spend 10 weeks learning about the famous local wines as well as working a harvest on a domaine.
This project, of which the South African wine industry can be justifiably proud, is a collaborative effort between the Western Cape governmente and the Centre de Formation Professionnelle et de Promotion Agricole (CFPPA) wine training institution in Beaune.
Since its inception the course has been expanded to include programmes for coopers and sommeliers from the Western Cape, and currently over 40 “students” are sent to Burgundy each year to enrich their lives.
It is surprising that such a high profile initiative supported by local wine farmers, workers and agricultural bodies alike was excluded from the one-sided Human Rights Watch Report into South African wine workers. The few local commentators who supported the findings of this report should also really have known better and at least mentioned this Burgundy project and the many other initiaves Cape wine farmers proactiely support to improve the lives of the people who depend on this industry, and on whom the industry depends.
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