WhatsUpCapeTown was privileged to join the Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism tour over the weekend, and experience, literally, the best of the winelands, while also being part of an innovative new approach to raising awareness of the initiative by blogging and tweeting about it.
The tour is the brainchild of Wines of South Africa (WOSA) and the Great Wine Capitals Global Network (GWCGN) which is a network of nine major cities around the world which share a key economic and cultural asset: their internationally renowned wine regions.
Cape Town joins Bilbao-Rioja, Bordeaux, Christchurch – South Island, Florence, Mainz, Mendoza, Porto, and San Francisco – Napa Valley.
Wines of South Africa represents the wine industry on the local steering committee.
The Global Network's mission is to encourage the economic, academic and cultural development in each of the cities via exchanges and joint projects, especially in the area of wine tourism.
To promote this, the Best Of awards programme was introduced in 2003, and this has grown rapidly, with over 309 properties having won awards.
A local jury is set up in each city in order to organise the local contest and to judge the applications according to:
• the quality of services and facilities offered
• the quality and original features of tourism offer
• the customer service
• the degree of commitment to developing global wine tourism
The Best of Wine Tourism Tours were designed to create awareness of the network by reaching a different audience as opposed to traditional media, by including bloggers and those using social media, as well as alerting wineries of the promotional potential of this initiative and of social media.
These tours are unique to South Africa, and other members of the GWCGN have applauded this innovative embrace of modern communications.
Participants in the tours gave their feedback, observations and experiences of each establishment, which were taken into account by the judging team, which consists of a group of experts.
Establishments were evaluated in a holistic manner, not just on the specific categories in which they were entered.
The judging team will then incorporate this feedback in their final decisions.
Numerous tours have been run, but WhatsUpCapeTown was fortunate to experience some of the best winelands experiences. Our particular tour started with a coffee at Truth Cafe in Cape Town, before being whisked to Spier where we had time to do a wine tasting but sadly nothing else. The next, and most novel, experience, was a marshmallow and meringue sparkling wine tasting at the House of JC le Roux, where we sampled some of their best sparkling wines paired with these delicious home-made treats. That merely whetted our appetites for lunch at Le Quartier Français, where we were pleasantly surprised by the good value offered on the tapas-style menu in the Common Room. We ordered two options each and got to experience some gob-smackingly delicious tastes and flavours, with the mushroom risotto, duck and deep-fried camembert titivating our tastebuds the most.
We then headed off to do another wine tasting at Mont Rochelle, taking in the expansive views of Franschhoek and its surrounding mountains, before ending the day with a final wine tasting at Grande Provence, and admiring its perfectly manicured gardens and wonderful sculptures.
Another positive experience on the tour was the use of The Green Cab Company, which uses liquefied petroleum gas and biodiesel, and helped absolve any guilt about the tours' carbon footprint.
Wines of South Africa is a facilitator of the initiative. This independent not-for-profit company represents all South African producers of wine who export their products, and has over 500 exporters on its database. Its mandate is to promote the export of all SA wines in key international markets, as well as advancing wine tourism.
The entire local wine industry worked with WOSA to create a top quality wine brand, Fundi, of which 100% of the proceeds went to training more than 2010 previously disadvantaged people as wine stewards in the build-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup held in South Africa.