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Giulio Bertrand - 13 March 1927 – 20 May 2018

Giulio Bertrand was born in Biella, an important wool processing and textile centre in North West Piedmont in Italy. Four generations of his family had been involved in textiles so it was natural for him to join the family business after university. He owned factories in South Africa and the United States as well as in Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy. Because his yarns and fabrics were sold to fashion designers he was acknowledged as one of the leaders of Italy’s fashion industry.

In recognition of this, on 2 June 1985 Bertrand was inducted as a member of the National Federation of Cavalieri Del Lavoro. This honours Italian entrepreneurs who distinguish themselves in various sectors of the economy, contributing to social development, employment, technology and the growth of prestige of the "Made in Italy” label.

From 1975 Bertrand started coming to South Africa four times a year to oversee his two factories in the Eastern Cape.  In 1979 his love of nature and conservation led him to buy a game farm bordering on the Kruger Park. With these South African connections he decided after his retirement to spend two months each year in the Western Cape to escape the Italian winter. 

In 1992 he bought Morgenster, founded in 1711 and acknowledged as one of the jewels of the Cape.  His first step was to restore the manor house, built in 1786, with the guidance of Cape Town-based architect Revel Fox. Then he turned his attention to the hill in his back yard which reminded him strongly of his native Piedmont. His father had gone into dairy farming on his retirement so perhaps the idea of farming was already there...

With a lifelong philosophy of producing only the best, Bertrand sought advice from experts who suggested that Morgenster’s terroir was perfectly suited to red wine grape varieties and olives.

Putting retirement on hold Bertrand went to France to assess whether Morgenster could produce wines in line with the best from Bordeaux. There he was introduced to Pierre Lurton of Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem. Lurton visited Morgenster and was inspired by the farm’s potential to realise Bertrand’s dream of producing world acclaimed Bordeaux styled blends which age well. Lurton became a consultant to the local team in establishing vineyards of Bordeaux varieties and building a cellar. He is a member of the Morgenster Board of Directors. Each year he and his technical group consult with Morgenster’s winemaking team to create the year’s blends for Morgenster Estate Reserve and Morgenster Lourens River Valley wines.

On 13 March 2013, coincidentally also his birthday, Bertrand was inducted into the South African chapter for the Commanderie de Bordeaux. This was in recognition of his dedication and attention to detail in creating Bordeaux styled wines of the highest order in South Africa and bringing the wine growing regions of France and South Africa closer together through his association with Pierre Lurton.

While it is part of Italian culture to produce fine wines and olives together, the concept was an innovation in South Africa at the time. Bertrand built a long-term partnership with the Olive Oil Research Institute of Italy and from them he imported the world’s most up to date olive tree cultivars for producing superior olive oil, as well as leading production technology.

His guiding philosophy of “Where there is quality there is no compromise” has resulted in Morgenster’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil being awarded top accolades in significant international competitions for over 10 years. These include being judged “Best Blended Olive Oil in the world” L’Extravergine 2006 and the Morgenster mill being awarded “Mill of the year” L’Extravergine 2007. More recently, according to the 2018 Flos Olei Guide to the world’s best extra virgin olive oils, Morgenster is one of only 12 oils in the world to be awarded 98 out of a possible 100 points, something it has achieved for five consecutive years.

Bertrand marketed his first oil in 1998 after thoroughly briefing the local media. Morgenster extra virgin olive oil was a resounding success. As a result he received approaches from people working in other agricultural sectors who wished to acquire olive plants and oil extraction technology. This presented an opportunity to expand his nursery and market a limited range of his Italian varieties.  Some 4.3 million of the 5 million trees planted in SA since 1994 originated from the 2 000 trees Bertrand initially imported from Italy.

Bertrand not only created an exceptional quality extra virgin olive oil on his estate, but by supplying Italian olives varieties to other local farms, providing equipment and farming consultancy services and bringing in international experts to run judging and oil appreciation courses, he has helped South Africa’s young olive oil industry to reach the same level as long-established producer countries.

In August 2012 Giulio Bertrand was honoured by the SA Olive Association with a Life Time Achiever trophy for his contribution to the local olive oil industry.

Giulio Bertrand’s support of local Italian business was recognised by the Italian-South African Chamber of Trade & Industries who declared him the winner of their FNB Business Excellence Award in 2010.

Always an active sportsman, Bertrand scuba-dived and hunted around Africa. Yachting however was his favourite hobby. In 1961 he won the prestigious Giraglia Race and the Mediterranean Championship on his yacht Arianna under Yacht Club Italiano burgees. In 1996 he sailed in the Cape to Rio race with Bertie Reed.

Giulio Bertrand is survived by two daughters, Alessandra and Federica, and four granddaughters.

Tel: +27.218521738   Fax: +27.218520835   Email:  
P.O. Box 1616, Somerset West, 7129, South Africa
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