BIRDS OF A FEATHER
Gourmands flock to the Cape, some relocate permanently despite the environmental warnings including crash weight gain, sun burn and liver damage often associated with overwhelming feelings of misadventure and debilitating excitement. Some even arrive at contentment but it’s an arduous journey.
Just like twitchers who go to great lengths to see every bird in the book, the CapeGourmand goes to great lengths to seek out new habitat. They often devise cunning plans of attack, armed with GPS, bulging guides -both real and printed – and an insatiable appetite to explore the winelands.
With increasing numbers of global wine authorities declaring the Capewinelands the most beautiful and dramatic in the world, growing numbers of international accolades for the restaurants and wines, it’s not surprising that wine tourism has become a multi-billion Rand business. South Africa’s wine tourism has been rated as the best-developed in the world by International Wine Review.
Yet it’s more than the heady cocktail of fabulous food and fine wine in beautiful settings – it’s about authenticity and the other big trend, sustainability. An International survey confirmed that the Cape rated ‘the highest rate of stated responses for promoting sustainability and authentic experiences’ among major wine regions of the world. The winelands has more land in conservation than planted to vineyard and leads the world in sustainable wine production.
Authentic experiences include tasting the Atlantic wind. The summer’s notoriously blustery South-Easter wind tempers the vine’s natural exuberance as a self-regulating creeper by reducing berry and bunch size via summer foliage checked and cooled by the wind – the result is wines of greater balance and intensity.
Terroirists can also taste among the most ancient soils in the world. The Cape has enjoyed stable geology for around 65m years – but they are also among the most diverse soils, forming the basis of the CapeFloral kingdom – by far the smallest and relatively most diverse of the six floral kingdoms. The grand spring bloom of wild flowers up the west coast also attracts its fair share of twitchers.
This diversity extends to the types of wineries tourists can visit, including the Grande Dames, the garagistes, the bohemian, the high-tech, the biodynamic, the ethical, architectural or even those housing international art collections.
Having cracked the European wine competitions and markets the Cape wine trade is growing increasingly excited about the USA, now the largest wine market in the world. Both their leading consumer wine magazines included three Cape wines in their top 100 wines of the world in 2015 with Wine Spectator including one in the top 10 – Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2009. The other two are Mulderbosch Block W Chenin Blanc 2013 and Sadie Family Palladius 2012. Wine Enthusiast’s list included De Toren Fusion V 2012, MR De Compostella 2012 and Vilafonté Series C 2012.
However the chefs are not to be outdone. Luke Dale Roberts at Cape Town’s Test Kitchen garnered no less than 28th spot in San Pellegrino’s Top 50 restaurants of the world. The Tasting Room in Franschhoek has previously also featured in the top 50. Meanwhile eight out of Eat Out magazine’s top10 restaurants are either in Cape Town (2) or the Winelands (6).
The real sweetener is value for money. With the Rand at record lows the price quality ratio is in unchartered territory. The garnish for Europeans is that there is no jet lag, particularly for a relatively long haul flight. The twitchers now migrate at any time of the year.
Jonathan qualified as a winemaker in 2001 after a career in financial services. Following flying winemaking and working for the likes of International Wine Services, Delaire Graff and Bibendum Wine Ltd, he is currently a consulting winemaker, tour guide, freelance wine writer, judge and educator.