It is becoming increasingly necessary in this burgeoning world of wine for producers to make themselves stand out from the crowd, to offer not only the one experience of tasting their wine, but something much broader that will attract the visitor to return. Charles Back with his Fairview/Spice Route set up that incorporates wine, cheese, beer, chocolate and a restaurant is a prime example of a successful tourism business.
This point of broadening the experience for tourists has been emphasised recently by two people who understand what they’re talking about. In a wine.co.za interview conducted by Cassie du Plessis, out-going Wines of South Africa CEO, Johan Krige said: ‘The modern tourist is much more focused on lifestyle rather than cathedrals; so wine tourism, which is closely linked to our biodiversity can be the right message for tourists to take home.’
In a report on the same website, Robert Joseph, respected editor-at-large of Meininger’s Wine Business International, told South African producers that tourists visited wineries to be entertained. ‘That is what California has got right. They understand that wine tourism is not merely a matter of offering tastings.’
These thoughts ran through my mind when the Boplaas Nels were in town last week to introduce their new Portuguese-style white and present a mini-vertical of their Cape Vintage Reserve (Port).
The Port story started by mistake, when Carel’s father, Danie, purchased grafted vines which he’d ordered as shiraz, but which turned out to be tinta barocca. As one of the recognised Port varieties, Nel father and son took up the challenge with serious intent from the start. Early vintages were made from tinta barocca and souzão; touriga nacional, considered top grape for Ports, joined the vineyard in the early 1990s. The jump from the 1987 and even 1991 we tasted to 2004 was bigger than just the time gap, the younger wines (2005, 06 and 09 were also poured) are more interestingly complex, drier and with greater grip derived from both tannins and alcohol, for ageing, if around the suggested 15 years doesn’t mirror the much longer time required by Vintage Ports. Lay them down if you wish, but, as the exuberant 09, the first made by Carel’s daughter, Margaux, illustrated, they can be hard to put down now!
The Nels have hardly worked alone on these fortified wines – no longer does the word Port appear anywhere on the label – alone. Cousins, Boets and Stroebel Nel of neighbour de Krans, the late Tony Mossop’s Axehill now owned and run by Mike Neebe, Peter Bayly and pretty well any other producer you care to name in the Karoo town of Calitzdorp, also produces either a single or several styles: vintage, vintage reserve, tawny, white and even pink!
This commonality of purpose led to a hugely successful bi-annual Port Festival in the town; they even persuaded producers from Oporto to attend, talk about their own product and ours.
‘Sales of our Port-styles are less than they were,’ admitted Rozanne Nel, Carel’s daughter in charge of marketing. ‘It’s the drink-driving issue and health concerns among other reasons.’
I’m sure it was more than seeing these issues on the horizon that led to the development of table wines made from these Port varieties. Again, it has been a collective Calitzdorp effort. The Nels are not short of ambition; ‘Our next goal is to make world class table wines from Portuguese varieties,’ Carel Nel announced. Since the Portuguese table wines from the Douro are themselves garnering appreciation and awards, this would seem a useful back to ride on.
The Boplaas event opened with a Chapoutier Douro 2010 (surely a region has arrived when the French invest!), a touriga nacional, followed by the Nel’s own 2012 touriga nacional reserve (R125) and their Gamka touriga nacional-shiraz blend (R175). I came around to the touriga after initial doubt about a hint of over-ripeness. The new white, mainly verdelho with chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, 12% alcohol and a great value price of R40 ex cellar delivers the easy drinking that’s the aim, but also illustrates the interesting difference verdelho can add, solo as well as in a blend. The wines’ companionship with food was ably demonstrated with the dishes served up by Peter Veldsman at his Kloof Street incarnation of Emily’s.
So the Calitzdorpers now have a ready-made selection of wines to evolve from just a Port Festival to my suggestion of a whole Portuguese weekend; something that could give further impetus to the area’s identity and entertainment value.
One has only too think what Robertson’s varied themed weekends, the Swartland’s signature shiraz, white blends and annual Revolution have done for those regions to see how others would benefit. Something even regions closer to the Cape Town market should consider. Up for it, Constantia, Stellenbosch?