On Saturday (27 August), I had the opportunity to join the Great Wine Capitals Global Network bus for a tour of the South African winelands with a group of bloggers to help in the evaluation of five wine farms that have entered the Best of Wine Tourism 2012 awards in various categories.
The initial motivation to offer the Best of Tours (or farm trips) to Best of Wine Tourism Awards entrants was twofold: firstly, to reach a different audience as opposed to traditional media in order to create awareness of the Best of and Great Wine Capitals; secondly, to alert wineries to the existence of this initiative, and to the value and promotional opportunities it offers, not only through possibly winning a category, but also the extended exposure via social media.
The initiative to include the opinions of bloggers, tour operators and general consumers in the evaluating of the various estates and their offerings was an initiative of Wines of South Africa (WOSA).
This was the second year that bloggers were included and they fulfilled a dual role of evaluation and advertising as most of the bloggers that were invited to partake over the past three weekends (there may be a fourth) are also very active on Twitter.
According to Andre Morgenthal there was a combined audience of around 12 000 Twitter followers spread over the three Saturday’s (not including re-tweets). This resulted in a captive audience and a measurable value to the promotion of the awards. The majority of the followers that make out the Twitter audience are consumers who view the industry ‘tweeple’ as opinion leaders and value their comments.
Our bus was one of two that was touring the winelands on Saturday, 27 August. Each of the buses took a different route and the route I was on was ‘home’ territory for me in Somerset West.
Our first stop was the iconic Waterkloof Estate perched on the edge of a mountain overlooking False Bay. It is no wonder that this breath-taking building has entered the Architecture and Landscapes category (along with Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices and two other categories as well).
We tasted five wines at Waterkloof (the usual tasting experience includes six wines for R30) and were mesmerized by the view from inside the current tasting room (we were informed that the tasting room and restaurant would soon be split into two different floors in the building).
The five wines which I tasted (we each chose different wines) were:
Waterkloof offers a selection of tour options which include a walking and lunch tour, a cellar and biodynamic tour or a horse riding and lunch tour. These choices definitely put them high on the list of competitors for the Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences category as these options are not (to my knowledge) widely available in the region.
Waterkloof follows biodynamic farming principles and this was wonderfully demonstrated by the sheep I saw grazing in the vineyards before we left. Waterkloof’s minimalistic approach to winemaking also helps to express the terroir in their wines.
Our next stop was Vergelegen where there is a lot of new development going on as they are busy building a brand new Wine Tasting Centre. The stand in tasting room is being shared with the library and gift shop.
We elected to partake in the weekend’s special tasting in honour of the camellia’s on the Estate which are currently in full bloom and at their best. The Camellia Tasting (at R30) included four wines, each matched to its camellia equivalent.
The four wines were as follows:
Vergelegen Shiraz Reserve 2007
Vergelegen Red 2004
Vergelegen is certainly a great contender for the Architecture and Landscapes category as the old oak trees (over 350 years old) give an unrivalled ambience to the estate. Vergelegen also entered three other categories including that of Art and Culture.
Our third stop for the day was Rust en Vrede. As this was my first visit to the estate I was surprised at the layout of the wine tasting room which was inside the cellar. I asked our hostess if the tasting room operated during harvest time to which she replied yes. After quizzing her on the logistics of the matter she replied that yes they do sometimes get sprayed with water and wine and that it is extremely chaotic but they all make it work.
We decided to go for their shorter wine tasting option which included four wines for R40.
The four wines we tried were:
Rust en Vrede has entered both the Wine Tourism Services and Restaurant categories.
Our lunch stop was at Spier where we dinned at their Eight Restaurant. I elected to have the free-range chicken pie which was accompanied by fresh veggies and home-made pastry. We did not have a wine tasting but rather chose to have some wine with our meal; we tried two of Spier’s premium wines:
After feeling quite satisfied with our meal at Spier (who have entered in five categories including Accommodation and Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices) we headed out to our last stop The House of J.C. Le Roux.
The tasting at J.C. Le Roux was a very interesting match of five meringues / marshmallows paired with five of their sparkling wines. This appealed to me as I have a bit of a sweet tooth and have always been quite fond of their ‘bubbles’.
The pairing was done as follows:
J.C. Le Roux Pinot Noir MCC 2009 with a plain meringue
J.C. Le Roux Pinot Noir Rosé MCC 2007 with a strawberry marshmallow
J.C. Le Roux La Valleé MCC NV with a coffee meringue
J.C. Le Roux Le Domaine with a coconut marshmallow
J.C. Le Roux La Fleurette with a chocolate/espresso meringue
I also learned something new from our very energetic attendant, if you spot a bottle of J.C. Le Roux in a store and it has a ribbon on the label it means it is carbonated wine and if it does not bear this trait it is a wine produced in the classic Méthod Cap Classique style. J.C. Le Roux entered only one category Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences.
This article was first published as a blog post on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.