I was first introduced to the Great Wine Capitals network in 2009 when I was invited to attend the awards lunch for the Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Awards. Great Wine Capitals is a global network of cities which have their winelands as a key economic and cultural asset. It exists to encourage travel, education and business exchange between these cities. There is more information available on the Great Wine Capitals website.
I initially thought that the Wine Tourism Awards was a competition between the various wine capitals, but the competition is actually between local wineries in each category. So each city has winners in each category, something worth looking at if you’re travelling to any of the cities.
Cape Town’s responsibilities in the programme are handled by Wines of South Africa (WOSA – who market SA wines overseas). It’s quite a lot of work, and they have made us proud, because they have taken the responsibility very seriously and positioned Cape Town as a forward thinking and savvy member of the network.
Starting last year, WOSA organised media tours of the various wine estates which entered the Wine Tourism Awards, in order to get exposure for the awards and the estates. These tours were offered to not only traditional media channels, but also new media channels such as blogs, etc. Cape Town was the first to do this and it has been widely praised among the GWC network. I was unfortunately unavailable to do the tour last year but I was happy to have been invited again this year.
We were picked up in town by the eco friendly shuttle service, Green Cab, and whisked off to the first estate. The estates enter various categories in which they feel they have something special to offer. Waterkloof was the first estate we visited and it had entered several categories: Architecture & Landscapes, Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences, Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices, Restaurant. Having visited the estate and eaten at the restaurant several times, I can vouch for it in each of those categories. The judges are careful to evaluate the full experience and not just the elements relevant to the categories entered. For instance, an estate could enter just the restaurant category but the judges will still evaluate the estate in terms of overall appearance, service, quality of wines, etc. We were asked to give feedback on the estates according to the judging guidlines and I can tell you that the guidelines are very comprehensive.
After Waterkloof we visited the following estates:
Waterford (Wine Tourism Services, Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences, Architecture & Landscapes)
Grande Provence (Restaurant, Wine Tourism Services, Art & Culture, Architecture & Landscapes, Accommodation)
La Motte (Restaurants, Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices, Art & Culture, Architecture & Landscapes)
Avondale (Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences)
The tour was well organised, WOSA is really doing a great job with this project. I was impressed with the estates and it confirmed to me that Cape Town offers one of the best wine tasting experiences in the world.