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Wine industry icon Dave Hughes dies

By , 7 February 2023



Dave Hughes, wine judge, writer and collector, died peacefully last evening at the age of 84. He served in the Rhodesian army and was selected for an officer’s training course at Sandhurst. A Rhodesian swimming champion, he also played provincial waterpolo, hockey and rugby. He was also a marathon veteran, completing the Comrades multiple times.

A temporary job at African Distillers shortly before his departure to Sandhusrt sparked an interest in whisky which led to a distilling apprenticeship – he was soon working his way across the UK and Europe, gaining experience in the production of whisky, wine and many other liquor categories besides.

African Distillers was later bought by SA Breweries, who then owned Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery and this led to Hughes being transferred to Germiston in 1968 to build a bottling plant. From Germiston to Stellenbosch (via what was then Natal) and he shifted from production to marketing. At this point, he took up wine writing, both technical and general, becoming widely published.

Helping people derive more pleasure from wine was close to Hughes’s heart and his discussions with the late Ronnie Melck, then head of SFW, on educating consumers were to find form in the Cape Wine Academy. As a result, Hughes was made one of only three honrary members of the Institute of Cape Wine Masters. He was also a respected wine judge, chairing the International Wine and Spirit Competition for decades. He also played a key role in establishing the authority of Wine magazine’s tasting panels.

Hughes lost his wife Lorna in a car accident last August.


2 comment(s)

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    Michael Schoeman | 9 February 2023

    Farewell Dave, I have fond memories, and memorable conversations.
    Cheers dear friend,
    Michael Schoeman

    Mike Froud, Top Wine SA | 7 February 2023

    A great wine man. And such a character, yet down to earth. Very knowledgeable and respected, but not a drop of wine snob in him. He would often wear very bright, colourful socks, even with a dress suit, although sometimes he’d dispense with them altogether – many a WINE magazine panel tasting chaired barefoot! No doubt he was a mentor to many, always on the lookout for young winemaking talent and singing his praises of the standouts. The last of an era, some might say, following the earlier passing of fellow Cape Wine Masters Tony Mossop, Duimpie Bayly… Remembered with a smile.

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