In walking around Franschhoek during the Bastille Festival yesterday, I was surprised to discover Taste South Africa, the most beautiful transformation of what was previously the Le Grange decor shop in The Yard, behind the Salmon Bar, off the main road in Franschhoek. Taste South Africa belongs to Fiona Phillips of Cybercellar (“Where else can you buy virtually all your South African wine?”, her business card asks cleverly), and is the first multi-brand winetasting venue in Franschhoek.
Fiona started Cybercellar twelve years ago, having been an equity trader on both the London and Johannesburg Stock Exchanges. It represents more than 700 wine estates in South Africa, with deliveries of wines made by courier 3 – 5 days after purchase. Taste South Africa will function as a tasting venue not only for South African wines, but for local products too, such as olive oils, and cheeses. For the Bastille Festival, Fiona and her manager Dominic Adelbert, previously sommelier at Aubergine restaurant, have focused on twelve Franschhoek wine estates, including Chamonix, Topiary, Solms-Delta, Mont Rochelle, Vrede & Lust, Backsberg, Lynx, Boschendal, Noble Hill, La Motte, Rickety Bridge, and Holden Manz, giving them free exposure, to introduce their facility.
Not only is the concept unique for Franschhoek, but I was bowled over by the interior design by Xperiencemakers. Lots of white on the floors and walls, with neat shelving, standardised presentation of information about each wine estate, and the most impressive red lamps, which contain the word “Taste” in South Africa’s official languages, create an interior of class. A grey carpet has the following Ernest Hemingway quote printed on it: “Wine is the most civilised thing in the world”. On display too are bronze sculptures by Vincent da Silva, an architectural student. They add to the classy interior.
Wine will not be physically sold from the tasting venue, but orders can be placed via Cybercellar while one is at the tasting venue. This Bastille weekend is a dry run for Taste South Africa, and it officially opens on 1 August.
Taste South Africa is an exciting new asset of Franschhoek, and a beautiful showcase of South African wines. Exciting functions have been planned, including food and wine pairing events, bloggers’ dinners, Twitter tastings, and a live-feed Twitter screen is to be added. The next Taste South Africa tasting venue will open at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg.
Taste South Africa, The Yard, off Huguenot Road, Franschhoek. Tel 021 876-2649. www.tastesouthafrica.co.za Twitter: @TastingSA
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage