Surf Riders cafe on South Beach is one of seven KZN restaurants awarded a diamond wine list. Picture: Supplied
Durban - Seven KZN restaurants scooped Diamond Awards for superb wine lists from Diners Club at its awards function at 9th Avenue Waterside last week.

The awards have honoured the best wine lists in the country for two decades and attract restaurants eager to gain recognition for the effort and attention they put into their wine lists.

Diamond Awards went to 9th Avenue Waterside in Durban Harbour; the Big Easy at Durban’s Hilton Hotel; The Chef’s Table, uMhlanga; Hartford House Hotel, Mooi River; Surf Riders Café on South Beach; The Oyster Box, uMhlanga; and Umngazi River Bungalows on the Wild Coast.

For Surf Riders owner Jason Caradas, this is the second year he’s had a diamond award. He was all praise for restaurant manager Samantha Small-Shaw.

“We both love our wines, but Sam really prides herself on them. She goes out and does all the tasting, and comes up with hidden gems. It’s to create that ‘wow’ aspect we do with our food,” he says.

Four years ago, the humble South Beach eatery, famed for its gourmet hot-dogs and soft-shell crab burgers, surprised many when it got a gold award, then the following year a platinum.

“I said, ‘Come on, Sam, we’ve got to up our game’, and we went all out to make it funky and sexy,” Caradas said.

The restaurant now boasts that 70% of the wines on its list are offered by the glass.

“I want people to try new wines, to taste those little vineyards they haven’t heard of that serve five-star wines,” says Caradas. “And we try to keep costs down because we want people to try new wines.”

He says the restaurant’s eclectic mix of customers have embraced the move.

“By introducing more wine by the glass, we sell more wine,” he says.

This year, 205 restaurants countrywide submitted wine lists for judging by a panel led by Platter’s Wine Guide publisher Jean-Pierre Rossouw, comprising experts Pete Goffe-Wood, Spencer Fondaumiere, Karin Visser and James Mukosi.

“Dining establishments are giving their wine lists ever more attention, and a trend I’d like to applaud is the growing number of wine stewards and sommeliers who curate and present the lists,” says Rossouw.

“It’s also encouraging to note the number of establishments offering a wider choice of wines by the glass.”

This year 47 restaurants countrywide have achieved Diamond status.

Platinum Awards went to Café 1999, Durban; Casa Bella Pearl Walk, uMhlanga; Fordoun Hotel & Spa, Nottingham Road; The Hussar Grill at Gateway and at Kloof; Three Tree Hill in Bergville; the Turn * Tender in Ballito; and the Umthunzi Hotel in Umtentweni on the South Coast.

The Independent on Saturday