SA wine es­tates are up there with the very best GE­ORGINA CROUTH

In­ter­na­tional con­test crowns Cape, writes

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

TOURISM is a lu­cra­tive money-spin­ner for any coun­try, and in South Africa wine tourism is rapidly tran­scend­ing other travel sec­tors. No longer are wine es­tates merely of­fer­ing a dreary tast­ing room fa­cil­ity with spit­toons, wine and a few crack­ers to cleanse the palate – the smart ones are open­ing their doors to visi­tors with a va­ri­ety of tastes, in­ter­ests and re­quire­ments.

This doesn’t come cheap or easy: not all es­tates are nec­es­sar­ily at­trac­tive, and not all es­tates have boo­dles of cash to spare. Those that don’t have to be­come clever about at­tract­ing tourists on a rel­a­tively tight bud­get.

Over lunch at the restau­rant Pierneef a la Motte on the La Motte es­tate out­side Fran­schhoek, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Hein Koege­len­berg, pleased with the es­tate’s re­cent Great Wine Cap­i­tals Best of Wine Tourism Award for sus­tain­able wine prac­tices and a string of other ac­co­lades, said South African wine tourism had come far.

“When you visit an es­tate in Bordeaux, you get to taste the wines, but you don’t get an amaz­ing meal on the es­tate. Italy is bet­ter, but South Africa is so much bet­ter at it.”

At Pierneef a la Motte, the kitchen show­cases heir­loom veg­eta­bles and fruits from their or­ganic gar­dens, which guests en­joy while sip­ping on their cer­ti­fied or­ganic wines. They’re also part of the Leop­ard Project, which tracks lone cats in the re­gion.

In 1970, the late Dr An­ton Ru­pert, the lead­ing cig­a­rette in­dus­tri­al­ist and founder of the Rem­brandt Group, bought the prop­erty. The farm is now owned by Ru­pert’s daugh­ter, Han­neli Ru­pertKoege­len­berg, a lead­ing mezzo- so­prano, and is one of three wine es­tates owned by the Ru­pert fam­ily – L’Or­marins and Ru­pert & Roth­schild are the oth­ers.

Last month the GWC Best of Wine Tourism Awards were held in the US, to cel­e­brate in­no­va­tion and ex­cel­lence in wine tourism through­out the 10 great­est wine re­gions in the world.

The Best Of pro­gramme al­lows winer­ies and other “vis­i­tor-serv­ing busi­nesses” in each re­gion to gain ex­po­sure and recog­ni­tion for their com­mit­ment to pre­sent­ing lead­ing wine tourism op­tions, while giv­ing visi­tors a one-stop list of the best places to ex­pe­ri­ence.

The com­pe­ti­tion, which pits Bil­bao (Spain), Bordeaux (France), the Cape Winelands, Christchurch (New Zealand), Firenze (Italy), Mainz-Rhein­hessen (Ger­many), Men­doza (Ar­gentina), Porto (Por­tu­gal), Napa Val­ley (Cal­i­for­nia) and the new­est mem­ber, Val­paraisoCasablanca (Chile), against each other in re­gional and global con­tests, is de­signed to re­ward busi­nesses in each mem­ber re­gion that have dis­tin­guished them­selves for the ex­cel­lence of their fa­cil­i­ties and in de­liv­er­ing qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ences to visi­tors in var­i­ous cat­e­gories.

Awards are for: wine tourism restau­rants; sus­tain­able wine tourism prac­tices; in­no­va­tive wine tourism ex­pe­ri­ences; wine tourism ser­vices; ac­com­mo­da­tion; art and cul­ture; and ar­chi­tec­ture and land­scape.

Vergele­gen, out­side Som­er­set West, won the in­ter­na­tional Best of Wine Tourism Award for the third time this year, ex­celling in nearly all cat­e­gories in the con­test.

The re­sults were an­nounced on Novem­ber 7 in Cal­i­for­nia’s Napa Val­ley, at­tended by world wine tourism lead­ers.

The Helder­berg win­ery won both the arts and cul­ture and the restau­rant cat­e­gories, and came sec­ond in the ar­chi­tec­ture and land­scapes, in­no­va­tive wine tourism ex­pe­ri­ences, sus­tain­able wine tourism prac­tices and wine tourism ser­vice cat­e­gories.

As an in­ter­na­tional GWC win­ner, Vergele­gen joins the ranks of the best of the best in global wine tourism. The other “best of the best” win­ners are: Spain’s Bode­gas Di­nas­tia Vi­vanco in Rioja, a mu­seum and win­ery com­plex cel­e­brated for its Eno­tur­ismo y Ex­pe­ri­en­cias that of­fers a wide range of ex­hi­bi­tions, cour­ses and other in­no­va­tive ex­pe­ri­ences; France’s Chateau de Rouil­lac, which dates back to the 19th cen­tury and once be­longed to the Baron Hauss­mann, who in­tro­duced ma­jor ur­ban plan­ning re­forms to Paris un­der Napoleon III; New Zealand’s Bran­cott Es­tate Her­itage Cen­tre at Bran­cott Vine­yard, the site of the orig­i­nal Marl­bor­ough sau­vi­gnon blanc plant­ings; Italy’s Castello di Gab­biano, which has a me­dieval cas­tle dat­ing back to the 16th cen­tury; Ger­many’s Weingut Ep­pel­mann Stadecken-Goslar, recog­nised for its in­no­va­tive use of QR codes in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with hik­ers; Chile’s Bodega Ruca Malen at the foot of the An­des cel­e­brated for its restau­rant; Por­tu­gal’s The Yeat­man, a lux­ury wine ho­tel with an award-win­ning wine cel­lar and Miche­lin star restau­rant ac­claimed for its mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of tra­di­tional Por­tuguese cui­sine; and Cal­i­for­nia’s The Hess Col­lec­tion Win­ery in the Mount Veeder area, renowned for its ex­ten­sive pri­vate col­lec­tion of in­ter­na­tional mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary paint­ings and sculp­ture.

The in­no­va­tive wine tourism ex­pe­ri­ence win­ner is the Spice Route Desti­na­tion in Paarl. It’s so much more than a wine es­tate – there you can sam­ple ar­ti­sanal choco­late at DV choco­lates (which pro­duces choco­lates from co­coa nibs and su­gar – no co­coa but­ter), CBC craft beer made in a state-of-the-art fa­cil­ity on the prop­erty, bil­tong and a wine-tast­ing room, a grap­paria, tea and cake, a glass-blow­ing stu­dio and a pizze­ria (also re­cently an­nounced as the 2013 Klink Wine Tourism Awards Best New Cel­lar Door At­trac­tion, as well as its over­all “Su­per­nova” win­ner).

Dat­ing back to 1685, Vergele­gen is renowned for the preser­va­tion of its his­toric build­ings and its gar­dens. The es­tate is also highly re­garded by wine con­nois­seurs, gas­tro­nauts and art lovers. Their award-win­ning restau­rant, Cam­phors, is named af­ter the an­cient cam­phor trees on the farm that are said to be more than 300 years old. The win­ery’s sig­na­ture eatery was re­cently re­vamped, with PJ Vadas, for­merly of the Round­house, ap­pointed as the ex­ec­u­tive chef. Cam­phors was named in the EatOut Top 10 best restau­rants in South Africa.

The Vergele­gen manor house and as­so­ci­ated build­ings have been re­fur­bished, and its in­te­ri­ors pro­vide a lay­ered his­tori­cism of the 300 years of the prop­erty’s ex­is­tence. Built by Willem Adriaan van der Stel, the es­tate boasts five orig­i­nal cam­phor trees and the coun­try’s old­est oak tree, which is hol­low in the cen­tre. An­tiques, ob­jets d’art and ceram­ics dat­ing from the Dutch East In­dia Com­pany days are dis­played along­side art­works from the Per­ma­nent Col­lec­tion of Iziko Mu­seum’s South African Na­tional Gallery in Cape Town.

Visi­tors to the es­tate can wan­der through the cam­phor for­est, walk through the manor house’s fragrant gar­dens, and take in Cape cul­tural his­tory in their mu­seum.

The Sta­bles bistro at Vergele­gen, once the sta­bles, show­cases art­works by land­scape artist Stry­dom van der Merwe, Wil­liam Ken­tridge and other renowned artists. Its gar­dens, com­plete with a grow­ing maze and a fan­tasy play area for chil­dren, are de­signed ac­cord­ing the grand VOC axis de­sign, which in­cluded rec­tan­gu­lar plant beds grouped into fours, with cor­ners cut away at cen­tral fo­cal points.

A new­comer to the com­pe­ti­tion, Baby­lon­storen, also in Paarl, came sec­ond among the South African con­tenders, win­ning the ac­com­mo­da­tion and the ar­chi­tec­ture and land­scapes cat­e­gories, and tak­ing third place in the restau­rant cat­e­gory for Ba­bel. The es­tate, renowned for its ex­quis­ite gar­dens and wa­ter fea­tures, lux­ury “farm-style” ac­com­mo­da­tion, a “plaas dam” and spa, pro­duces its own wine, fresh pro­duce and olive oil.

Wine tourism ser­vice win­ner Delaire Graff prides it­self not only on su­perb ser­vice, but on one the coun­try’s finest col­lec­tions of art (prop­erty owner Lau­rence Graff is one of the world’s top 10 art col­lec­tors), award-win­ning restau­rants (Delaire Graff and In­do­chine), and a chic ter­race un­der pin-oak trees over­look­ing the Helshoogte Moun­tain Pass.

The prop­erty, founded by Si­mon van der Stel in 1679, was bought in 1983 by John and Erica Plat­ter, who sold it to Graff 20 years later.

Graff, a renowned in­ter­na­tional di­a­mond trader, has trans­formed it into one of South Africa’s lead­ing lux­ury des­ti­na­tions.

Last Fri­day, the es­tate un­veiled Tretchikoff ’s Chi­nese Girl for pub­lic view­ing. Graff ’s col­lec­tion in­cludes works by Damien Hirst, Basquiat, Pi­casso, Banksy, Warhol and Renoir.

It is hoped that, in time, more wine es­tates will ex­pand their tourism of­fer­ing.

It’s a win for ev­ery­one.

HIS­TORIC: Vergele­gen homestead boasts 300-year-old cam­phor trees.

SCENIC: Baby­lon­storen won two cat­e­gories.

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