Wine is South Africa's biggest agricultural export - earning R6.2 billion in 2009.
Now wine tourism, with growing numbers of foreign and South African tourists visiting wine estates, is becoming increasingly important. But, because there is no central organisation to support it, with many wine estates offering additional attractions at present but with no strategy to develop it as a whole, there are no statistics by which its success can be measured.
Speakers at a recent workshop organised by the city of Cape Town, the Cape Winelands district, Great Wine Capitals of the World - an international organisation to which Cape Town belongs - and the South African Wine routes Forum, stressed that there was a need to agree on a co-ordinated development strategy to stimulate long-term and sustainable growth.
Su Birch, chief executive of Wines of South Africa (WOSA), the agency promoting wine exports, said on Monday that wine tourism was “growing very strongly”. with many estates now offering new attractions in addition to the normal wine tastings and restaurants, and profitable sales direct from the cellar.
These included “eco-walks” through the vineyards and surrounding area at which environmentally friendly practices, as well as the often breath-taking scenery, were pointed out, to horse-riding and 4X4 trails. She gave as examples the Villiera estate, where a range of buck and other wildlife had been introduced for guests to see on game drives, and a glass-blowing studio at the Seidelberg estate where the work could be seen in progress and art works bought.
A selection of gourmet cheeses were made at the Fairview wine estate.
One estate offered a braai area and facilities and a selection of meat could be bought. Others offered either formal or informal picnics. Restaurants varied from those offering gourmet meals under the supervision of a well known executive chef to a cafe at an estate in the Jonkershoek offering simple but delicious bistro-type meals while looking at superb scenery.
She suggested that more wine tourism from Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa, and not only from overseas, should be encouraged.
Both Birch and David Scott, a consultant to the wine industry, said the suggestion that a single mandated individual or organisation should appointed to encourage the development of wine tourism did not mean that it should be standardised. But, Scott said, it would identify and prioritise the specific developmental needs of the industry as a whole. He pointed out that this was the case in other wine-producing countries . There could also be more co-operation between the wine industry and tour operators.
John Malan, immediate past chairman of the Cape Winemakers Guild, said it would be a good thing to have a forum in which the different, competing, wine-producing districts could inter-act with each other and agree on common goals and joint advertising. . It would be useful to have more information about the type of people interested in wine tourism.
He also suggested that the government should seek to make arrangements to make it easier for foreign visitors to arrange for delivery at home of wines that have impressed them on visits to wine estates. - Audrey D'Angelo