In Memory of Martin Moore

One of the primary reasons I decided to focus my marketing business on the world of wine was for the diversity of personable, warm-hearted people who inhabit this universe. Martin Moore, who died on Sunday at the age of 60, was somebody who reminded me that I had made the right decision.

Martin’s very being underscored my belief that human terroir and the spirit of the winemaker’s soul plays as big a role in the creating of wine as does climate, aspect and soils. He was a lover of wine, people and life, and in that heart – which failed him so tragically early this week – there was a sense of knowing he was put on this earth to provide his fellow beings with the conviction that wine is something truly great.

He took-on the task of setting-up the Durbanville Hills behemoth in 1998, and under his stewardship it has grown into one of South Africa’s most successful wine brands. No-one yet knows what new-owners Heineken are planning for its forays into wine, but they will know that Durbanville Hills is now the wine king in their beer-frothed crown.

In fact, I would hazard the guess that the quality of its wines, commercial success and the proactive marketing of Durbanville Hills played a major role in establishing Durbanville as a renowned and leading modern-era region, especially in Sauvignon Blanc. This is a huge part of Martin’s legacy and I hope he receives recognition for this. But his legacy lives on, and it will continue to do so.

Born in the diamond-town of Oranjemund in Namibia, Martin grew-up in Worcester.  Bernard Kotze, a class-mate at Worcester High School and former marketing and sales stalwart of DuToitskloof Wines, remembers Martin as showing tremendous respect and sportsmanship on the rugby-field.

“I was his team-mate when we got drilled one Saturday by the Drostdy Technical School,” recalls Bernard. “They really buggered us up, winning 88pts to our zero. When the final whistle blew and the opposing teams shook-hands, I remember Martin going to the Drostdy captain. Despite our massive loss, Martin said to the winning skipper: ‘Congratulations mate, you guys didn’t play too shit today’.”

A fiery hooker, Martin often found himself at the bottom of the ruck with players all over him. “I remember Martin’s voice coming-up through the bodies: ‘Ag jirre ouks, just leave my bloody ears alone, okay?’” says Bernard.

While he will be remembered as the force behind Durbanville Hills, Martin held winemaker positions at the KWV and Groot Constantia. Anyone who attended one of his wine presentations will recall the extreme thoroughness and detail with which he explained what was in the glass. He would take-on a stern professional demeanour and dramatically enthuse on malolactic fermentation, autolysis, acid adjustment and grape flesh-to-skin ratios during ripening. But once the presentation was done, Martin would hold the fort as jovial host, answering further questions and providing solid doses of humour, mostly of the self-deprecating kind.

He was always up for a challenge outside of wine, too.

During the 1995 World Cup Rugby Tournament in South Africa, Martin was winemaker at Groot Constantia and before the tournament kicked-off, all participating teams and World Cup officials were invited to dinner on South Africa’s oldest farm. Media were there too, but there was a strict ban on journalists taking any photographs.

However, a journalist from Die Burger newspaper handed Martin his own camera. And during the event, which saw the opposing teams of rugby greats mingling, the Groot Constantia winemaker happily snapped-away without any of the officials batting an eye. As a result, the newspaper got an exclusive photographic essay of a unique private event – pictures courtesy of Martin.

His winemaking prowess resulted in Durbanville Hills winning truckloads of trophies and awards, and Martin always put these awards down to the farmers who farmed the grapes for his cellar and his colleagues. Martin was a great cook, and I was privileged to one day be involved in his preparation of sosaties from start to finish, including a secret curry marinade that he guarded with his life. “Making wine is easy compared to this marinade, so count yourself lucky,” he said.

It is still hard to believe Martin is no longer at Durbanville Hills, and that he won’t be seen at one of the awards functions or product launches. Sitting back, arms folded he would take-in what was going on around him, listen attentively, and when he commented the words were genuine, true and scented with his personable warmth and forthright humour.

I have never met his boys Alexander and William, but when I do, I will tell them they had a father who loved them with a loyalty and pride that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Many of us will do doubt be treasuring a few special memories in our own pockets for a long time to come.  

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6 thoughts on “In Memory of Martin Moore

  1. What a brilliant tribute to a great man. He was a dear friend and I will miss him very much. Kobus and Wilhelm, his right hand men will fly the flag for him in memory of a much loved and respected member of the wine community..

  2. Indeed, a great loss. he was a huge help to Lynne and me while we were studying for our diplomas and we will miss him. At the 1995 RWC lunch at Groot Constantia, I was there as a sponsor and not a
    s journalist. Perhaps that was why they allowed me to take photographs!

  3. It is with great sadness that I’ve heard of Martin’s passing via a close friend of his in France.
    Whilst he was at Groot Constantia we met regularly as I lived close-by and we had so many hilarious moments and laughs but when it came to tasting, it became serious business.
    Martin was a great asset to the South African wine community and he will be sorely missed by all.
    I send my heartfelt condolences to his family. RIP Martin!

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