At the conclusion of The Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference held at Spier over the past two days, the seven South African winners of the 2016 Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Awards were announced.
Tokara was named the Winner in the Wine Tourism Restaurant category, its proud Chef Richard Carstens being the recipient of the award, with his arm still in a sling after a second operation to his shoulder. It is ironic that Tokara won the best Winelands Restaurant award, but was not nominated as an Eat Out Top 20 restaurant finalist this year. Last year a similar farce was Delaire Graff being named the best Winelands Restaurant, but not making the Eat Out Top 20 finalist list.
The Great Wine Capitals is an eight member network of wine regions around the globe, which works together in marketing its members’ wine regions. The member regions are Cape Town/Cape Winelands, San Francisco/Napa Valley, Mendoza, Bilboa/Rioja, Mainz/Rheinhessen, Bordeaux, Valparaiso/Casablanca Valley, Porto, and Adelaide. Clay Gregory of Visit Napa Valley spoke briefly about the benefits that the membership of the Great Wine Capitals has for his association. They have built a strong relationship over time. The number of entries received from the Napa Valley wineries has increased significantly over the past years, and reflects that Napa Valley is recognised as one of the great wine regions in the world, Clay said. We were shown a video before the awards were presented. In it an Australian speaker said that our country’s Wine Tourism is not as recognised as it should be, but that it has the most beautiful backdrop of all wine regions in the world.
The representative for our country for The Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Awards is Andre Morgenthal, formerly from WOSA. He shared the names of the judges as well as the winners for the different categories:
# Accommodation: Delaire Graff winner, judge Philip Engelen
# Architecture & Landscaping: Vergelegen winner, Alex Robertson and Johan van Papendorp judges
# Arts & Culture: Vergelegen winner, Marilyn Martin judge
# Innovative Wine Tourism: Creation winner, Samarie Smith judge
# Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices: Waterford winner, Joan Isham judge
# Wine Tourism Restaurant: Tokara winner, JP Rossouw judge
# Wine Tourism Services: Rust en Vrede winner, Margi Biggs judge
Alderman Dr von Schlicht, Cape Winelands District Municipality Mayor, handed over the awards and addressed the winners. She said that the awards reflect the vision of the Municipality as ‘a unified Cape Winelands of Excellence‘. She congratulated the winners, and acknowledged the consistency, commitment, focus, and hard work that made each of the wine estates winners. Economic growth is a vital goal for the Cape Winelands District Municipality, and the Great Wine Capitals Global Network is one of the vehicles used to achieve the goal. This leads to job creation. She said that the financial constraints to membership of the Global Network will be bridged with assistance of the private sector, given that South Africa will not be represented at the Great Wine Capitals AGM taking place in Porto next week. At the AGM the international winners of the Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism will be announced.
The Mayor was the only person over the two-day The Best of Wine & Food Tourism Conference to address the damaging Danish documentary that is harming the image of our country’s wine industry. The video by Tom Heinemann documents the wine estates which are guilty of violations towards their staff. She urged the wine industry to focus on social responsibility in the industry. Not addressing this damaging report was seen by some attendees to be a weakness of the Conference. The Mayor handed over certificates to staff of the following wine estates to commend their service to customers: Boschendal, La Motte, Grande Provence, Rust en Vrede, Vergelegen, and Waterford.
JP Rossouw, the Restaurant category judge, was also a speaker at the Wine & Food Tourism Conference yesterday. Addressing the topic ‘Eating South Africa: How do we plate ourselves for the rest of the world?‘, he took us through our local cuisine, and asked how unique it is. When one Googles ‘South African cuisine’, boerewors, red meat, and other dishes come up, reflecting our cuisine heritage as diverse, colourful and expensive.
Iconic South African foods are the following: biltong, dröe wors, Malva pudding, mielie pap, braais, bunny chow, Amarula Don Pedro, melktert, bredie, bokkoms, pumpkin fritters, roosterkoek, mutton and lamb, slaphakskeentjies, waterblommetjies, stewed sweet potato, Cape Malay curries, Chakalaka, Braai, and Bobotie. The use of spices is more dominant in our country, contrary to the international trend. He added that Cape cookery is very spice reliant. Our city had an early availability of fresh fruit and vegetables, with the Company’s Garden supplying passing ships. Cooking has been and still is cooked over fire, slow in metal pots, or fast over coals. Preserved foods are a trend.
Restaurants are our region’s ‘calling cards’, but Rossouw asked if our restaurants reflect our cuisine history and tradition He said that the chef is the custodian of a tradition and an artist. The menu should be able to reflect ‘Where in the world am I when see the menu?’ He said that locals want to eat something ‘exotic‘, something which they cannot prepare themselves at home. Men are increasingly cooking, he spotted as a trend. He identified three types of local restaurants:
#. the Disney style, typically a Moya restaurant, attempting to be African but not true to the cuisine culture.
# the hyper traditional style, offering the traditional dishes listed above. While we do not serve enough of it, we should already have had enough of it, Rossouw said. The local cuisine can be eaten at home or at a farm stall, he said.
# The interpretative style is elaborate and based on traditional recipes. He showed us a photograph of a dish with risotto and waterblommetjies, which was prepared by Chef Eric Bulpitt when he was still in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Rossouw expressed that we are not seeing enough of this type of cuisine.
Rossouw mentioned some of our iconic food personalities, who must lead the way forward on local cuisine. Peter Veldsman and Topsi Venter have retired and passed away, respectively. Reuben Riffel was mentioned, having been a host of the CNN ‘Culinary Journeys’ episode on Cape Town recently. Chef Reuben cooks food of his memory, of his past, and of his childhood. He will not change nor experiment with his grandmother’s recipes, he has said.
Rossouw concluded his contribution by talking about the future of South African cuisine. He said the menu should tell the story, and he encouraged local cookery schools to teach their students local cuisine too. He said that we should be better marketers of our heritage cuisine. The Cape Winelands has developed a unique cuisine culture, and tells its story beautifully in pursuing and presenting it. Local cuisine is served in the following restaurants in the Cape Winelands: Fyndraai, Vergelegen, Waterkloof, Overture, Reuben’s, The Tasting Room, Wolfgat, Bo-Kaap, and Marianna’s.
The Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference, Spier Conference Centre, Stellenbosch. 1 and 2 November. www.wineandfood.co.za Twitter: @WineFoodConf
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein