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SSouth Africa is internationally recognised for its exceptional viticulture, with its wines contributing significantly to its vibrant tourism scene.
Pioneering winemakers and the introduction of novel practices such as creative food and wine pairings anchor the rapid rise of wine tourism. The Wine industry's efforts to champion sustainability and inclusivity, along with its commitment to quality and excellence, solidify its reputation as a significant contributor to the nation's economic and social fabric.
TThis industry growth has also paved the way for the emergence of a new generation of winemakers. It's particularly encouraging to note the increasing representation of black winemakers within this cohort.
One remarkable example is Ntsiki Biyela, a celebrated woman winemaker who rose from humble beginnings in rural Mahlabathini in KwaZulu-Natal. After completing high school in 1996, Biyela spent a year as a domestic worker before earning a scholarship to Stellenbosch University.
In 2003, she obtained a BSc in Agriculture (Viticulture and Oenology), subsequently joining the boutique winery Stellekaya as their winemaker.
Collaborating with Californian winemaker Helen Kiplinger spurred Biyela's ambition to craft her own wines. This aspiration was realised in 2016 with the establishment of her brand, Aslina Wines, so named in honour of her grandmother.
She was later invited to France to produce a wine for The Winemakers' Collection, an opportunity accorded only to a select few global winemakers. Now, Biyela serves on the board of directors for the Pinotage Youth Development Academy, playing a vital role in equipping young South Africans for the wine and tourism industries.
For her role in transforming the industry she was awarded the Diversity and Transformation Award received at the prestigious 2021 Wine Harvest Commemorative Event.
Adding to this dynamic new generation are the Rangakas, owners of M’hudi Wines. Hailing from the North West Province, the Rangaka family purchased a farm in Stellenbosch in 2003, and are considered the first black family to own a wine farm in South Africa.
Their brand, M’hudi Wines, embodying quality, excellence, and sophistication quickly rose to prominence.
Over the years, their premium wines have garnered numerous awards and accolades. M'hudi's wines have graced the menus of renowned travelling restaurants, airlines, and ships, including the Blue Train, South African Airways, United Airlines, KLM, and The World Residents at Sea.
Further expanding their reach, they have entered various international markets including the United Kingdom, the United States and West Africa. In the spirit of giving back, M'hudi Wines conducts wine education in a township community focusing on responsible wine consumption.
South Africa’s established wine estates have anchored the wine tourism industry for many decades with many of them being in the Cape Winelands. This is no surprise as 95% of SA’s wine growing takes place in the Cape Winelands. The South African Wine Tourism Visitor Research Report for 2022 reveals that the Stellenbosch, Durbanville and Franschhoek were the most visited wine routes.
The report further reveals that international visitors are more likely to visit wine estates for wine tasting compared to locals, as they were more likely to be on holiday and enjoying a must-do experience in the destination. These visitors also placed a higher premium on the scenery and farm setting, and the experience of taking a countryside road trip.
Some of the popular wine Estates in the Cape Winelands include Boschendal and L’Ormarins Estate in Franschhoek,n Signal Gun and Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville and Webersburg Estate in Stellenbosch.
These estates offer a variety of experiences to the visitor including tours.
Complementing the wine scene are food pairings which are gaining popularity across South African wine estates. These combinations, ranging from traditional to innovative, serve to enhance visitors' experience and propel wine tourism further.
For instance, the Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch has perfected the pairing of wine and chocolate. Their acclaimed winemaker, Kevin Arnold, collaborated with Belgian Chocolatier Richard von Geusau to create three bespoke chocolates designed to pair with their wines. They offer a spicy Shiraz with Masala Chai Dark Chocolate, a Cabernet Sauvignon with Rock Salt Dark Chocolate, and a sweet dessert wine to enjoy with Rose Geranium Milk Chocolate.
Similarly, the Clos Malverne Estate, also located in Stellenbosch, offers a distinctive Ice Cream and Wine Pairing. This pairing has become a signature of the estate, with handmade, seasonal delicacies available from Wednesday to Saturday.
Villiera Wine Estate has joined forces with Roses Artisanal Delicacies to offer a Cap Classique and Nougat Tasting. Middelvlei offers a pairing of delightful wines with braai tapas, Delheim has a wine and Fynbos cupcake pairing showcasing a range of fynbos inspired cupcakes and Delheim wines while Diekelderey offers a pairing of biltong and wine, adding a unique local touch to the experience. These pairings are not just about taste but an enriching experience that showcases South Africa's rich cultural heritage.
Outside of the Cape Winelands, a wine route worth exploring is the Midlands Meander route in KwaZulu-Natal where Abingdon Wine Estate stands out as a unique single-vineyard boutique wine producer. Abingdon produced the first certified estate wine in KZN in 2007 from its 100% homegrown grapes.
The ongoing surge in wine tourism underlies the industry's multifaceted role in economic and cultural development. According to a study commissioned by Vinpro, in 2019, the year before Covid-19 struck, the wine tourism sector's direct, indirect and induced impact or contribution to the country's GDP was a staggering R7.2 billion while it supported 36,000 job opportunities. The study was commissioned by Vinpro, a non-profit organisation representing close to 2600 South African wine producers and stakeholders, together with the South African Wine Routes Forum.
Part of the appeal of South African-produced wines is the responsiveness of the industry to growing consumer demand for sustainably prodced wines. Initiatives like the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW), a voluntary sustainability scheme established in 1998, offer testimony to this readiness. Moreover, ethical trade accreditations alongside partnerships with WWF-SA Conservation Champions, exhibit the industry's dedication to ethical, environmentally friendly and regenerative farming practices.
The South African wine industry is a rich tapestry woven with tradition and innovation, cultural heritage, and environmental sustainability.
Issued by South African Tourism
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Note to editors
South African Tourism is the national tourism agency responsible for the marketing of South Africa as a preferred tourist destination, headed by Acting Chief Executive Officer, Nomasonto Ndlovu.