I recently experienced the true power of wine tourism first hand.
It was one of those crystal-clear autumn days in the Cape and we’d been invited for lunch at Long Table, the restaurant of sister wineries Dombeya and Haskell Vineyards in Stellenbosch, by old family friends visiting from Toronto, Canada.
We ate, we drank, and we were merry.
To be more specific, we ate chef Corli Els’s delectable slow-cooked oxtail wrapped in caul, pork belly slow braised in orange and whole spices, lamb medley with carrot potato mash and roasted ratatouille vegetables, and beef burger served with bone marrow, wild mushrooms, prosciutto, onion confit and mustard béarnaise; we drank the Haskell II 2009 (R160/bottle ex-cellar); and we were merry at least partly because we drank several bottles of said Haskell II 2009 (having hired a van and designated a driver).
But it didn’t end there. The food versatility of this mainly Shiraz/Cabernet blend, combined with the stunning Helderberg views, friendly service, safe play area for the two small children in our group, relaxed ambience and good company, inspired our Canadian host to buy a case of 12 bottles for him and his family to drink over the rest of their holiday and/or at home (apparently only three bottles made it back to Toronto in the end…).
Now, here’s the thing: I’m betting that this self-confessed Napa lover would have found the powerful Haskell IV more to his personal taste (even at R400/bottle ex-cellar, and perhaps I should point out that price was not an issue). But it was his tourism experience of the Haskell II that clinched the deal. ‘You just don’t get this in Napa,’ he sighed, taking a forkful of oxtail, following it with a sip of wine, and gazing out over the Helderberg.
And wine-loving amateurs from overseas aren’t the only ones bowled over by the Cape. Recently, US-based The International Wine Review also rated South Africa’s wine tourism as the best in the world.
‘Most wineries have excellent tasting facilities and many have superb restaurants with spectacular mountain vineyard views,’ commented editor Don Winkler and publisher Mike Potashnik, who visited South Africa in peak season last December. ‘While the country is located far from most foreign wine lovers, it offers huge rewards to those who visit.’
And the bigger the ‘rewards’ for visitors, it seems, the bigger the potential returns for the winery.