* The Open Design Festival will run in Cape Town from 12 to 23 August at the Watershed in the V&A Waterfront and in the City Hall. With the theme ‘Design is for Tomorrow‘, the Festival consists of talks, workshops, tours, and interactive experiences. The focus is on how design adds value. More than a hundred events are on offer, most of them with free entrance.
Bray first attracted attention when the Roux brothers Michel and Albert opened The Waterside Inn in the village in 1972, and have held a three star Michelin rating for the past 25 years. Chef Heston, whose father grew up in South Africa, was attracted to the village too, Continue reading →
* South African wines need an international champion to market them overseas. International companies with drinks interests, such as LVMH and Pernod Ricard, have no local wine interests, but do have in Australia.
* Uber is increasingly utilising metered taxis as part of its operation, despite the Western Cape Metered Taxi Council calling for the shut-down of the transport service. Uber says it has created 2000 jobs in our country in the past two years, and could create a further Continue reading →
* The Penny Ferry is to be reintroduced in the V&A Waterfront on 1 November, connecting the main shopping centre side to the more commercial and business side at the Clocktower. The ride will cost R5. The ferry stopped opening in 1997 when the swing bridge was constructed. The Penny Ferry service was officially relaunched by Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom earlier this week.
* The judging for the 2014 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year has been completed, and the winners of the 34th annual competition will be announced next month. In evaluating the nominees, it was ‘the heart and soul of the winemakers that stood out strongly‘, dominating the quality of the wines they made. The Winemaker of the Year entered in this year’s theme category of White Blends, while the Young Winemaker of the Year was evaluated on any red wine. Judges included Dave Hughes (panel chairman), Beatriz Machado from Portugal, retailer Carrie Adams, Nomonde Kubheka (wine judge and educator), Christine Rudman (wine judge), Colin Frith (GM of Hazendal), and Margaret Fry (Director of Cape Wine Academy). (received via media release from African Sky Media)
* Construction of the new tourist-friendly cruise terminal in the Cape Town port could begin at the end of this year, with tenders being sought.
* The Cape Town International Jazz Festival is estimated to generate R520 million for the economy of the country this weekend, with 35000 jazz lovers attending two nights of local and international jazz, sold out two months ago already, reports The New Age.
* OR Thambo International handled more international passenger arrivals (3,9 million out of 4,8 million) in 2013 than all other local airports combined, reports The New Age. International arrivals at Cape Town International were reported to be 750000 in the past year. While Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth are both designated as ‘International Airport’, they only handled 31 and 216 international passengers, respectively, in the past year!
* The 20th anniversary of our country’s democracy will be celebrated in April with a month-long celebration of South African wines in Hong Kong. On 16 April a South African Wine Festival will offer 150 wines to taste at Hotel ICON. South African Sommelier Association Chairman Neil Grant will lead a wine pairing dinner at Above & Beyond restaurant on 25 April. The Continue reading →
* Lifeguard duty at most Cape Town beaches will be curtailed to weekends only now that schools have re-opened. The lifeguard services will continue to be offered daily at the city’s Blue Flag beaches (including Camps Bay), from 10h00 – 18h00, until 31 March.
* UK singer Cheryl Cole is said to be looking to buy a holiday home in Cape Town, and in Camps Bay specifically.
* SAA has been given a 4-star rating of its service for the 12th year running by independent airline evaluation agency Skytrax. More than 800 aspects of service are evaluated. SAA is the only African airline to achieve the 4-star rating.
* Collecting shells on the beach whilst on holiday may be harmful to the environment, including to some animal and plant life.
* The 5th annual Haskell Vineyards Open Day will be held on Saturday 9 November, from 10h00 – 15h00, at no charge. Cellar Master Rianie Strydom will present a Master Class on ‘A Grape’s Dilemma- is marriage better than singledom? and will present new releases. Booking is required at Tel (021) 881-3895 (via media release from Waterford Communications)
* Tourism growth from advanced economies has retracted, while growth is focused on developing economies as source markets. The year 2009 was the worst for world tourism, with a 11% global decline, but a slow recovery is being seen.
China is the ‘promised land’ of future tourism to our country, once the English of Chinese tourists improves, and they start becoming self-drive tourists. The work that the South African wine industry is doing in general, and at La Motte and Leopard’s Leap specifically, will have a tourism benefit, as they cannot sell the products without communicating its heritage and values, says Hein Koegelenberg, CEO of both wine companies.
Hein started the companies’ focus on China four years ago, having withdrawn from the USA due to an agency problem in that country. This freed up time and money to invest in Asia, Hein working with agencies due to the difficulty in communicating the brand message in this region, especially as our country is not yet well-known to the Chinese. Having developed a distribution network for marketing La Motte and Leopard’s Leap wines locally and in Europe, Hein used this ‘intellectual property’, as he calls it, to develop a distribution network in China. Creating a link to the end consumer is important, he said. James and Michelle Tan, who have previously marketed Rooibos tea and Northern Cape minerals to China, were brought on board to guide Hein in selling into China. One of the first projects was to set up a selection of wines in golf clubs, one of the places in which Chinese drink wine outside of their homes (they do not drink it at home), leading to a type of vinotheque, which stores each golf club member’s wine collection at the club. Ernie Els, La Motte, and Leopard’s Leap wines and more were offered as a package of good wine brands to the golf club members. A substantial target has been set for sales of Leopard’s Leap and La Motte by the Tans. Agencies were appointed to sell the wines into China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Laos, the emphasis being on marketing specific brand varieties into specific regions.
Within China, Hein is using three distribution systems for his wines:
* Aussino Wines China, the company’s CEO Robert Shen being named by Decanter as the 16th most influential person in the international wine world, and with a network of 120 wine shops. His company sells 150000 bottles of Leopard’s Leap and La Motte, being the only South African brands stocked, by agreement.
* A joint venture with Yangzhou Perfect, the second largest direct sales company selling only organic products, and has a turnover of R12 billion. It has 5000 outlets in the Yangzhou region, and 500000 – 1 million agents buy the products of the company, add an agreed mark-up, and then sell them door to door, much like Tupperware sells its products. Given the tax of 50 % of wine imported into China, efforts are underway with Wesgro, WOSA (WInes of South Africa) and the Department of Trade and Industry to get the tax reduced (New Zealand only pays 30%), the saving in tax being earmarked for the marketing of South Africa in China. Perfect created a wine brand to test sales via its distribution network, and sells 1,5 million bottles. In marketing wines in China, Hein emphasised that Biodiversity is an important foundation, in that it reflects family values and heritage, as well as caring for the environment and for people. Selling product only leads to it being price-based, which does not create loyalty. Chinese wine drinkers are trusting imported brands increasingly, having been exposed to fake Chinese wines. Hein said that 25 % of all Chinese wine sales are of imported wines. Imported wines are predominantly from France (35), from Chile (8%), Australia (8%), with South Africa at 3%. Half of the South African sales to China are for Hein’s brands. Wine imports to China are expected to double to 50% of total wine sales in the next five years. China is the sixth largest wine producing country in the world, ahead of South Africa at eighth position.
Hein has formed Perfect Wines of South Africa, 51% owned by Yangzhou Perfect and 49 % by Leopard’s Leap. For this new venture they have created a new wine brand called L’Huguenot, with more sugar (5% compared to 4 % locally), and choosing wines that pair well with the more spicy Chinese food, being a 50%/50% Shiraz/Pinotage blend, a Chenin Blanc, and a La Motte-style Shiraz. This new L’Huguenot brand sold 400000 bottles in the first ten days of its launch in China, about 30% of its initial sales target, which will grow to 2,5 million bottles. The marketing of L’Huguenot, a brand name chosen specifically to link the brand to Franschhoek and its heritage, will also focus on the marketing of Franschhoek, and the Franschhoek Wine Valley association is working on how to do this in Chinese, probably starting off with a Chinese website page, as WOSA will be doing shortly. Hein’s next challenge is to create a visible consumer interface for L’Huguenot, as he has just completed for Leopard’s Leap. His challenge is what to ‘pair’ with this new wine brand.
* Hein has also created his own direct sales channel via a company he created, called Prestige Wines. He seeks corporate networks to link in to. The first network is with the Tsinghua University of Beijing, the largest business university of the city, with 3000 CEO members in its alumni club. An agreement will bring four groups of 50 alumni each to Franschhoek a year, to grow to four groups of 100 over time, giving these influential alumni the opportunity to experience Franschhoek. A group visited Franschhoek ten days ago, and they played golf, ate at Pierneef à La Motte, and were addressed by former President FW de Klerk, who pleaded to the businesspersons to bring investments to South Africa. Hein told me at the Leopard’s Leap launch last Friday that they had signed up R1,5 million in wine sales from this lunch alone. They were shown the L’Ormarins Motor Museum, and had a hands-on experience with the harvesting of the vines and tasting of the wines. A Golf Day which Hein had organised raised R1 million for the alumni bursary fund. Another project Hein is working on is providing a bottle of wine with every Mercedes Benz sold in China, this being the best selling car brand in the country. A good working relationship has been developed with the 5-star Shangri-La hotel group, and a brand co-operation agreement will no doubt be put in place with them too. Chef Chris Erasmus of Pierneef à La Motte is to travel to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore later this year, Hein told me.
Leopard’s Leap sells its wines in 41 countries, with 20 % each sold locally, in the UK, and in Belgium/Holland. Sales to China are at 9%, and Hein is excited about the potential to double this. The brand was started as a second label, taking up the left-over grapes of the three Rupert Franschhoek wine farms L’Omarins, Rupert & Rothschild, and La Motte, represented by the three leopards on the label. The brand was created 12 years ago, and was initially only bottled and sold in the UK, with the assistance of Simon Halliday. Local sales started five years ago.
Hein believes in focus and excellence, and China will be his focus for this year, he said. There are no new projects this year, with his focus on detail to achieve the goals. While Hein says that he has not had the time to learn Mandarin, he does have Chinese characters for his name and title on his business card. He told me that his Chinese name is Gu Hai Ning, the last name meaning ‘calm ocean’, a description that he was given to describe his face. Hein is the first to admit that the work and success is not his alone, and he praised his team of Wanda Vlok handling Marketing, Marius Kotze handling Sales, Leopard’s Leap winemaker Eugene van Zyl, and Kareen Neethling handling Logistics and Planning. Grapes for the production of Leopard’s Leap wines are mainly sourced from Wellington, Ashton, and Perdeberg.
With the focus of La Motte, L’Huguenot, and Leopard’s Leap on the Chinese market, Franschhoek tourism players will need to start learning Mandarin, given the marketing benefit that the village is likely to experience in future.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Despite having been filmed in 2009 already, the 13-part reality TV series ‘Exploring the Vine‘ had not been aired on local South African TV until it premiered on SABC3 three weeks ago. Not only will the series stimulate interest in wine-drinking amongst local South Africans, but it has also received international exposure on the National Geographic Asia channel.
The series, produced by ‘Cooked in Africa’ Films, the company that made Charlie’s Bakery famous through their recent ‘Charly’s Cake Angels’ reality TV series, filmed three young winemakers for a year, living their passion for wine making. Howard Booysen, James Corder, and Stuart Botha met at Elsenburg Agricultural College, and each of the winemakers are featured at the wine estates at which they worked at the time. Filming was done on weekends over the period of a year, and covered all aspects of winemaking, including nurturing the vines, trellising, harvesting, making the wine, and winetasting. The three friends also share stories of the South African wine industry, and its history. The TV series was sold to National Geographic, and was flighted in 2010, achieving international coverage.
Executive Producer Justin Bonnello said about the series: Filmed in and around Stellenbosch, Constantia and Elgin, the Series provides a unique and entertaining showcase of what makes South African wines among some of the best in the world. Stuart, Howard and James represent a new generation of local winemakers who have each proven that the opposite is true when it comes to wine production: youth is not a handicap when it comes to making an excellent wine.”
Howard Booysen was one of the first to participate in the Protégé programme of the Cape Winemakers’ Guild after his Elsenburg studies. This led him to meet and work with a number of top winemakers. He has since started making his own wine, under the Howard Booysen Wine as well as Pegasus labels. He is the sommelier at Aubergine.
Stuart Botha started his winemaking career at Constantia Glen, and then went to St Emillion in France before joining Eagle’s Nest. His winemaking skills have already been recognised, having been named the Best Red Winemaker of the Year in 2010 for his 2008 Eagle’s Nest Shiraz. His 2009 Shiraz was named the Best Shiraz in the 5 Nations Wine Awards.
James Corder comes from a winemaking family in Elgin, and worked at Villiera as well as Domaine Grier before returning to the family farm. His Elgin Vintners Viognier 2009 won Best South African White Wine at the Nova Scotia wine show in 2010. He will launch a sparkling wine next year.
Wine drinking is receiving a welcome boost from the film industry, in the airing of ‘Exploring the Vine’ reality TV series, and the romantic comedy ‘Semi-Soet’, which is currently on the movie circuit.
‘Exploring the Vine’, SABC3, Saturdays, 16h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
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