Wine Tourism in SA

Happy travels!

Google is your friend... Especially when you can type in: “list of things to do when visiting Cape Town”.

Bam! Thousands of suggestions – all within the space of a few seconds... and that’s even with my really slow internet download speed!

Tripadvisor is a handy tool because it’s used by travellers and tourists the world over. People love to share their reviews and impressions of places and experiences. Number two on its list of things to do when in Cape Town, sorted by popularity, is a wine tour.

As it stands, the travel and tourism segment is a massive revenue generator, as well as providing employment opportunities. It’s a growth area in the local economy – with one in every 22 jobs being in the hospitality and tourism sector. It brings in around R130 billion every year – and is expected to exceed R200 billion in just one decade.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities & Tourism in the Western Cape government, is bullish about this region’s touristic prospects – and allocated a further R56.5 million of his departmental budget for 2017/18 to tourism, art and entertainment “for the continued growth of our tourism sector”.

Key objectives have been in making it easier for tourists to get to the Cape – and making more beds available for them. “In our economy, it’s not about divvying up the same old pie. Here, the size of the pie is growing,” he said.

“Between July and September 2016, traditionally a quieter time, tourists spend was recorded at R3.8 billion, a 31% increase over the same period in 2015.  Our mission to make it easier to travel here through more direct flights to our region, has yielded fantastic results,” he reported in his budget speech in March.

“In a very short time, we have added over 600 000 additional two-way seats flying directly into Cape Town, with a notable increase in air travel between our region and chosen strategic markets.”

That’s good news for the Cape economy but what sort of contribution does wine tourism make specifically?

VinPro CEO Rico Basson is on record as having said that SA’s current wine tourism economic contribution of ±R6 billion is targeted for considerable growth. The target for 2025 – eight years from now – is that the contribution will be in the region of R15 billion. One of the biggest elements of growth in this sector of the tourism market – and local economy – is the potential employment opportunities. Basson said 289 000 jobs had already been added in the wine value chain to date “and the new strategy will pave the way for significant growth in the wine tourism sector over the next 10 years”. 

No less a luminary than renowned wine writer Jancis Robinson has said that the South African winelands are the most beautiful in the world. Scenically it’s an easy sell. Anyone who has travelled up the Helshoogte pass outside Stellenbosch to take in the views of the Drakenstein valley with the Simonsberg looming majestically on one side and the Klein Drakenstein mountains on the other cannot fail to be impressed. As pretty as the view towards Franschhoek is, the same could be said for the abundant sprawl of the vineyards on the Breedekloof valley floor, or a road trip to Robertson when the jacarandas and cannas are in bloom – or further afield in the Klein Karoo’s Calitzdorp or even way up north around Kakamas and Keimoes where vineyards hug the banks of the Orange River...

South African wine producers have realised the double benefit of tourism in generating revenue and exposure for their brands as well as creating employment opportunities. Local wineries have frequently won international honours in the Great Wine Capitals network for the quality of the cellardoor experience with Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch a multiple winner, for example. 

It’s not just about sitting down and being offered a tasting of the wines they produce. It’s about the look and feel of the place, the architecture, the warmth of the welcome. The opportunity of either going for a walk in the fynbos or a safari drive into the Waterford vineyards on the slopes of the Helderberg.


Chamaonix Wedding Venue 

La Motte in Franschhoek is another with a multi-pronged offering with the highly-rated Pierneef a La Motte restaurant, farm shop and the Pierneef gallery backing up the wine tasting. One of the best local examples of organic growth over the past 25 years has been Stellenbosch’s Jordan. Their visitor offering has all of the above – and more! You can taste the wines, do a vineyard drive, cellar tour, buy bread at the bakery or nosh on one of their humongous burgers or cheese platters – or go fine dining at the Jardine at Jordan restaurant – as well as stay over in laidback luxury at one of their guest suites.

Time for a declaration of personal interest: I’m a qualified tour guide and (obviously!) specialise in taking guests on bespoke wine tours. Recently I had two guests from America and took them to Hartenberg wine estate. As much as they loved the wines, what really impressed them was the tasting conducted by Sinethemba, a young man from Khayelitsha. 

It took a bit of prodding and prompting from the guests to extract his tale. He’d undergone hospitality training through the Pinotage Youth Development Agency – hoping it would help him to get a job as a waiter. But he was seduced by the wine side and had become part of Hartenberg’s front-of-house staff. Not only was he charming visitors to this wine estate, he was playing a role in educating his community in Khayelitsha about wine – conducting tastings for friends and neighbours, telling them that wine wasn’t just about alcohol and its numbing effect – but about appreciation for the place, the subtle nuances of different grapes and learning about flavour and taste. (And yes, he got a big tip because that’s the way Americans roll!)

In 2018 Wines of South Africa will once again be hosting its local showcase to the wine world. The last one was held in 2015 and was a great success. With the country’s wine producers riding a proverbial wave of positive sentiment because of the exciting wines they’re making, gaining heaps of airplay and column centimetres all over the world, there’s no doubt that Cape Wine 2018 will be a focussed event that will contribute further to the success and growth of wine tourism.

Fiona McDonald