Cape Town – South Africa’s appeal as a tourist destination is unique in the world. There is no other country that offers the diversity of experiences that can be found here.
Traditionally, visitors have come for the wildlife, the natural beauty and the sunshine. More recently, sports tourism and business tourism have taken hold as well.
And, in the Western Cape, wine tourism is also quickly becoming a major attraction. The wine farms have always been there and people have always visited them to taste their produce, but more and more estates are appreciating that it need not end there.
The shift has really occurred as wine producers have accepted that wine doesn’t have to be elitist. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy wine, and so you shouldn’t have to prove yourself an expert in order to visit a wine farm.
“I think the biggest mistake we as brand owners made over the years was to position wine as too snobbish,” says the CEO of La Motte wine estate, Hein Koegelenberg. “Ten years ago if you walked into a wine tasting facility and you knew nothing about wine they would tell you that you know nothing. But now we have the situation where people are more comfortable and relaxed. It’s about having a good time.”
This shift has led wine estates to reconsider their appeal. They have recognised that while wine should remain the central element of what they do, it need not be the only thing. Tourists are not only going to come because of the quality of the product, but the quality of the overall experience.
“Wine tourism is about brand extension,” says Monika Elias, the publisher of The Wine Tourism Handbook and founder of the Klink wine tourism awards. “Wine is a lifestyle product and there is so much that can go along with that.”
For many estates, the concept of wine tourism began with their tasting rooms and restaurants. Since wine and food are natural partners, this makes obvious sense.
However, it hasn’t stopped there. Estates across the Western Cape have extended their offerings to include everything from museums, to art galleries, to spas and hiking trails.
Visitors can now enjoy experiences such as the mountain bike trails at Oak Valley, or the Pierneef art collection at La Motte. They can visit Antonij Rupert for its car museum or Delaire Graff to view its diamond jewellery.
“The way to market yourself in the modern world is to focus on the experience and not just the product,” Koegelenberg says. “And the offering South Africa is putting on the table from a wine point of view is superior to anywhere in the world. We are way ahead in terms of the range of different experiences we offer and the quality of those experiences.”
Simply put, what is making wine tourism so successful in South Africa is that it has become about much more than just tasting wine.
“If you look at other wine regions in the world, they don’t have this same tourism pull,” says Katherine Harris, wine marketing and sales manager at Delaire Graff. “It’s not just a wine experience any more. It really is a whole package.”
Some wine tourism experiences to consider:
Wine and salt tasting at Fleur du Cap – a unique pairing of wines with foods enhanced with artisanal salt
Food and wine tasting at La Motte – an introduction to how to pair wines to the primary taste sensations
Tastings at the KWV Wine Emporium – including sparkling wine with nougat, sweet wine and liquer with cake, and chocolate with brandy
The Porcupine Trail Wine Walk at Waterford Estate – a two-hour guided walk through the estate’s fynbos, vineyards and wild protea fields
Wine bath at Mont Destin – soak with your partner in a sensual mixture of red wine and warm water
Franschhoek Wine Tram – a hop-on hop-off tour of the rolling Franschhoek valley
“Langtafel” at Mooiplaas – Dine with the estate owners, the Roos family, in the old Manor House
Underground cellar tour at Weltevrede – explore the estate’s historical underground tunnels and experience a candlelit wine tasting
Grand Provence Harvest Day – celebrate the harvest by picking and stomping your own grapes
Vergelegen Starlight Classics – light classical concerts on the lawns of one of South Africa’s oldest and grandest estates
24 Karat Gold Facial at Delaire Graff – A luxury experience at an exclusive spa