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SA Wine Industry Loses Giant and Mentor in Duimpie Bayly

13 August 2021

Stellenbosch - The Distell Group mourns the passing of Francis (“Duimpie”) Bayly, (81) one of South Africa’s most distinguished wine personalities. He served on the company’s board from its inception in 2000 until his retirement in 2013.

Bayly, who had been educated at Stellenbosch University, University of California (Davis) and Harvard, and was a member of oenology and viticultural societies in the US and Australia, played a key role in raising the reputation of the local wine industry in global markets. He was directly involved in some of the sector’s most important technical and eco-advances, said Distell MD, Richard Rushton.

“He was held in extremely high regard both locally and internationally and was a mentor to many within South Africa’s wine and brandy industries. We shall miss him as much for his erudition, critical thinking, humour and modesty as his enormous contribution to wine and brandy standards and sustainability in this country. It is difficult to measure the enormity of his influence on technical and sensorial quality and the generosity with which he shared his knowledge and understanding.”

Bayly was active on a range of technical committees established to raise standards in wine and production integrity. He also was involved in promoting conservation and in championing South African brandy and the country’s indigenous Pinotage grape.

“Duimpie was also instrumental in creating one of the country’s most important wine libraries in the Tabernacle at Distell, where thousands of bottles are maintained as a reference and a record of valuable vinous experiments. It has been a substantial resource not only to us but to the wider industry.”

Distell Board Chairman, Jannie Durand said Bayly’s death was a great loss to the wine industry. “On behalf of Distell and the Remgro Group we want to honour Duimpie Bayly. We will cherish his association with the wider Remgro Group with fond memories. We want to thank Duimpie for his loyalty, commitment and friendship through the years. May he rest in peace.”

Piet Beyers, a long-standing colleague and personal friend of Bayly said: “I had lunch with Duimpie just a week ago. He radiated energy, enthusiasm, and his unique charm. His stories and anecdotes – told with an ever-present twinkle in the eye - were, as always, filled with special insights and wisdom. I will miss him very much.”

Bayly, whose career in wine spanned almost 60 years, had been president of the South African Society of Oenology & Viticulture, as well as of the Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society. He also served as chairman of the South African Demarcation Committee of the Wine of Origin System, the Wine and Spirit Board’s technical committee and of the SA National Wine Show Association. He was one the first people ever to earn the Cape Wine Master accreditation and he was a sought-after judge on many wine and brandy competitions.

As chairman of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, he spearheaded a highly progressive partnership between the conservation sector and the wine industry established almost two decades ago and that has since seen substantially more land rehabilitated to indigenous habitat than is cultivated to vines.

He joined Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery in 1962 that merged with the Distillers’ Corporation to form Distell in 2000.

“His association with us continued for over 40 years and even after his retirement, we regularly sought his counsel. He was brave-hearted, a visionary and a fantastic raconteur. To be in his company was always a pleasure. We’ll miss him enormously,” added Rushton.

Bayly will be remembered as a man with a great sense of humour who always had a story to tell. He came from the Karoo and was the son of a sheep farmer.

Starting off his career as a lab assistant, he rose to become a South African wine icon but never forgot his roots, remaining a farmer alongside his professional career. He was indeed a true son of the soil, who never lost his humility.

A resident of Stellenbosch, he is survived by his wife Sue, three children and grandchildren.