South Africa is worth wine(ing) about
Let’s start this year being frank to one another. South Africa has its challenges: socially, economically, politically and environmentally and it has kept the doomsday prophets fairly busy in the media. But to seasoned travelers, South Africa is no isolated case. I believe you reap what you sow and I intend to water only what I believe needs nurturing. Healthy Walker Bay Vineyards in this case. We are at the start of the 2019 wine harvest – one of the most exciting yet grueling times of the year for viticulturists and winemakers.
Needless to say, recovering from a severe drought, the South African wine industry is saddled up and armed with new courage for what we believe will be a great vintage.
SA wine tourism on the up
It is not all doom and gloom when it comes to South Africa.
Oscar Wilde said: The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about and when it comes to news, South Africa is certainly not the shy girl hiding out in a southern corner down at the tip of Africa. This tip is on top of the world when it comes to wine and wine tourism.
Having travelled to many wine destinations across the globe confirmed this for me, along with the 16% growth in wine tourism. Before the planes touch ground at Cape Town International Airport, 99% of visitors have already included a wine stop in their holiday program – ready for wining of a happier kind.
The wine traveler proved to have different spending patterns, says Wesgro CEO Tim Harris, showing higher than average expenditure than the general tourist. The growing interest of food and wine pairings (68%), cellar tours (54%) and wine tastings events (49%) ushered this along, Harris adds, with a 43% increase in requests for the Hermanus wine route.
Good, better, Benguela
Welcome to the first edition of my bi-monthly in house blog: Wine Matters. The aim with this is to hone in on wine matters in South Africa and across the globe and at the same time advocate the importance of wine and making it matter.
As the Brand Business Manager of Benguela Cove, I want to apply my research to see this young, innovative and fast growing estate in context with what is happening on the world stage. This will be a porthole for the public to look into the workings of a wine farm and to learn to understand the efforts and dedication involved to make a success of wine business in South Africa.
At the same time I want to review everything we do at Benguela Cove and for Benguela Cove and use the data as a measuring stick to stay abreast of current matters that include consumer trends and needs. And lastly, I want to utilize this platform to broadcast the importance of wine as a cultural elixir that brings like-minded people together. Because, apart from sustaining a profitable business, where there is good food and good company, wine always matters.
Benguela means business
After a 16 year career path that involved the professions of art, travel, photography, journalism, food and wine writing - and ultimately a wine, tasting and business qualification - I joined the Benguela Cove team on 5 March 2018.
I followed the farm with keen interest – headed up by a formidable business woman and entrepreneur Penny Streeter OBE who reeled in the talented winemaker Johann Fourie whose fine wine has been no stranger to me as a wine judge.
Leaving the media, and doing so quite unceremoniously with no plans to write, critique or review food and wine from a different platform, I spent the last 10 months emerging myself into the business of wine. Aligning with successful people has instilled the drive to succeed and to pursue a differentiating route with every project I undertake, be it conceptualizing new wine labels, creative marketing, selling our product or just striving to perfect the kind of service that is generally lacking in hospitality.
Wine is nothing to be snobbish about. Blessed with great diversity in terms of landscape and people, South Africa comprises of many different wine offerings, each with its own place and patron. Wine is there for all to enjoy and explore and the wine world needs to accentuate its accessibility.
I am proud to say that Benguela Cove delivers on this demand and caters to different pockets and people.
Cheers to 2019!
Recovering from the drought, the outcome highlighted the South African wine industry’s tenacity to overcome adversity and to help each other recover from this. A good winter rainfall may be indicative of a good harvest with relative normal levels to look forward to.
I am eager to document and share this with you in the next weeks to come. Although the Overberg was affected in a less harsh way, the drought compelled all to look at the way water is being utilized and the effect of all the efforts has been evident across board.
With new wines hitting the market, Benguela Cove has an exciting year to look forward to. The pre-released Catalina Semillon 2017 earned 5 stars in the SA 2019 Platters Wine Guide and alongside this gem, we will also be releasing a limited range of wines exclusive to wine club members.
Our wine club will therefore be a priority, offering added value and tasting opportunities. Wine club benefits also apply to our UK properties in Horsham, Sussex, where we have traditional Champagne varietals as well as Pinotage vines growing into maturity.
Both Mannings Heath Golf and Wine Estate and Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens will move into the spotlight in March when Leonardslee opens its doors to the public, inviting all into its luscious green heart. Albeit still a difficult concept for many a Champagne lover to get used to, the UK sparkling market is booming with excellent fizz competing with some of the finest Champagne and we intend to have our fair wine share in this excitement.
I wish everybody a successful 2019 harvest.
Samarie Smith - Brand Business Manager
Benguela Cove Wines | Benguela Collection