The world’s leading winelovers, wine experts, wine traders, sommeliers, and wine journalists have started arriving in Cape Town for the three day Cape Wine 2012, being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from tomorrow until Thursday, and Vindaba running alongside it.

More than 5000 wines from 300 wine estates are on show at CapeWine 2012, and more than 30 international wine journalists are expected to attend, having a tourism benefit for Cape Town and the Western Cape.  Delegates are attending from Europe, the UK, the USA, other African countries, South America, China, and Japan.  For the first time SA Tourism, in conjunction with WOSA (Wines of South Africa), have organised Vindaba, an exhibition of wine tourism products in the Western Cape.

CapeWine 2012 is held every two years, but was not held in 2010 due to the soccer World Cup, and is one of the largest marketing events organised by WOSA.  For the first time WOSA has gone green to reflect ‘the South African wine industry’s environmental consciousness’.  This includes booking guests into hotels within walking distance of the convention centre; only recycled paper will be used for printing, if printing is required at all; the stands are made from recycled boards; most stands will not use electricity, but rather LED lighting; all bottles, corks, and screw caps will be recycled; no bottled water will be available;  cork supplier Amorim will create a lounge made from recycled cork; media information will be made available in bamboo memory sticks; VIP bags have been made from recycled advertising banners; lanyards have been made from ‘sunbaked paper’; all fish served at the Green Tie event will be SASSI certified, and all eats will be made from local produce; the ‘green ties’ which allow entry to the event have been made from discarded plastic; solar lighting will be used for the Green Tie event; furniture for the Green Tie party has been made from recycled wooden pallets, and will be donated to a crèche afterwards; the plates at the Green Tie party are those from CapeWine 2008, and the cutlery is made from bamboo.

CapeWine 2012 will reflect the development of our local wine industry in wine growing, wine making, and wine marketing since South African wines were opened to international trade almost 20 years ago.  Tastings, seminars, workshops, and a Producer’s Soapbox will focus on changes in wine styles, reaction to climate change, the management of scarce natural resources, and the protection of old vines.

Su Birch, CEO of WOSA, said that interest in CapeWine 2012 was growing, as ‘South Africa has distinguished itself both in terms of quality and pioneering programmes to promote eco-sustainability. This has earned global recognition for the country on both fronts, from the market and environmentalists, particularly in recent years’. Mrs Birch added that CapeWIne has a solid reputation as a trade exhibition.

The organisation of the first ever Vindaba has been driven by SA Tourism, having sponsored the exhibition, and is project managed by Susannah Holz.  SA Tourism has identified that wine tourism is ‘one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative sectors of the global tourism market‘, says Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism.  Wine tourism can make an important contribution to the country’s economy, the Minister said.  International as well as local media focusing on wine, travel and lifestyle are expected to attend.  The objective is to increase the income of wine tourism, only $41 per capita in our Winelands, compared to $188 in Napa Valley in the USA.  Seminars at Vindaba will focus on gastro-tourism, and tailor-made wine tours to the 17 wine routes in the Western Cape will expose the international visitors to the diversity and quality of their offerings.  The eco-friendly green focus of the Vindaba exhibition reflects that of CapeWine 2012.  The Vindaba exhibition organisation has not been without controversy, SA Tourism having been blamed for not being proactive enough in spreading international media across the different wine routes, having instead allowed them to choose where they want to visit, meaning that the majority have opted for Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.  Lesser-known wine routes, such as those in Paarl and Wellington,  will therefore remain exactly that!

Tonight WOSA is hosting a ‘Green Tie Event‘ for the opening of CapeWine 2012, and even this function is going green, in that invitees have been asked to park at the Cullinan Hotel, and will be bused in collectively or will be guided by a ‘Green Guide’ in walking to the function venue in the V&A Waterfront.  The evening promises a ‘sampling of our finest wines, paired with the freshest and most delicious local cuisine, and accompanied by a showcase of local music, song and dance‘.  The wine week will be concluded with the prestigious Nederburg Auction, which takes place on the Paarl wine estate on Saturday.

CapeWine 2012: 25 – 27 September, 10h00 – 17h00, Cape Town International Convention Centre. www.capewine2012.co.za

Vindaba: 24 – 27 September, 10h00 – 17h00, Cape Town International Convention Centre. www.vindaba.com

POSTSCRIPT 24/9: This evening about 720 guests, of which about 50% were international wine writers, sommeliers, wine buyers, and wine trade, attended the ‘Green Tie Event’ for the opening of CapeWine 2012. Initially one heard more ‘American’ than local English spoken!   The Who’s Who of the wine industry attended. Met German wine writers Mario Scheuermann (a Facebook friend) and Eckhard Supp, and Mike Veseth, the guest speaker at the Nederburg Auction on Saturday.  Neil Pendock, who received a late invitation from WOSA to attend the event, was the most spruced up we have seen in years, having had a hair cut today in honour of the event, it would seem!  The green theme of CapeWine 2012 was carried through in the event, with lighting made from recycled milk cartons. Excellent wines were served.   Even the food was ‘green’ and locally sourced.  The salmon cream on cucumber canapes were excellent.  The calibre and quantity of international wine visitors in Cape Town and the Winelands is an exceptional wine tourism marketing opportunity for our country.

POSTSCRIPT 26/9:  Yesterday I visited CapeWine 2012, and was impressed with the best looking exhibition in the Cape Town International Convention Centre. More than 300 wine estates have pulled out all the stops to package and present their wines to the top level local and international attendees.  The highlight was tasting a preview of the new Delaire Graff Laurence Graff Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, not yet labelled, an icon wine made in honour of the owner of the wine estate, its GM Johann Laubser said.  It will be the first South African wine to sell at $200 a bottle.

The Botanica Wines’ label design, reflecting the brand name, impressed once again, and the Chenin Blanc is likely to do well at Platter this year, its owner-winemaker Ginny Povall hinted.  The label designs come from botanical drawings by Mary Delany, seen by Ginny at the Yale Centre for British Art.  One of the largest stands was that for Fairview, which focused attention on its Fairview, La Capra, Goats do Roam, and Spice Route labels, as well as on its Fairtrade connection.

POSTSCRIPT 26/9: Vindaba, the first wine tourism showcase, is very disappointing, not having any of the design quality or professional look of CapeWine 2012, with few visitors.  Its location in an open space at which the banqueting is normally done is not ideal.  The Wine Routes are not collectively branded, and it is not clear as to where they start and end.  Some of the Wine Routes had individual products alongside them too. All are manned by very friendly staff, and include Wellington Tourism, the KWV Sensorium (a first in pairing art works with wines), Franschhoek Tourism, Spier, Elegantly Elgin, Mellesat (in Paarl, now famous due to the write up by Neil Pendock in the Sunday Times on Sunday), Neil Grant representing the South African Sommeliers Association and manning a stand of white blends, the Cape Whale Coast sharing with Hermanus Wines, Grande Roche, Durbanville Wine Valley, Cape Town Tourism, Solms-Delta, Laborie, and more. Creation was running the Cape Whale Coast/Hermanus Wines stand, but this is rotated over the three day exhibition.  By yesterday afternoon the Cape Town Tourism brochure bags had already run out, and no attempt had been made to supplement them.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage