South Africa today is competing at the same level of excellence as leading world-class wine producing countries in Europe and South America, as well as California Australia and New Zealand, says Tsogo Sun’s group sommelier, Miguel Chan. “And in response, at last South Africa is achieving the recognition it deserves from the international wine writing industry, which is realising that South Africa is making wines that need to be taken note of.”
Chan adds that a key advantage that South Africa has, is that our wine prices are still the best value for quality in a bottle. “In South Africa we pay roughly a third of what international prices of similarwines would be. This isn’t something that is necessarily seen by local customers, but it is a reality.” However, Chan doesn’t see the situation lasting. “Within five to eight years our prices will be on a par withinternational wine prices. We have an increasing cost of living, cost of operation, as well as cost of labour – and the local wine industry will have to follow the pricing trends of other countries.”
He says the local wine industry has exploded in the last two decades, since independence. “In about 1994 when the market opened, South Africa had just under 200 wineries and about 1 600 labels; today we have over 900 wineries, of which 550 are medium-sized and actively and commercially producing wines, and around 8 600 labels in the market. The diversity of choice is vast. We’re also seeing new wine regions being trialled – yes, the Western Cape is home to about 98% of our wines, but we are seeing some development in KwaZulu-Natal in the Midlands, where several wine producers are registered, near East London in the Eastern Cape, further north in the Cape, in the Ceres region, in the Northern Cape and in Sutherland in the Karoo.”
South African wines often have the edge, says Chan, because many of our top-rated wines are produced in small quantities. A prime example is auction wines where the total release of a wine averages 600 bottles. This rarity creates its own demand and buyers are more keen than ever to get hold of a bottle or case for own consumption, for their cellars, or to impress.
Another area where local wine farms are doing well is in a natural approach to wine making. Chan says that while a greater level of integrity in wine making is a global trend – about 2% of the world’s wine production today is following this trend – South Africa has possibly one of the “greenest and cleanest” wine producing areas in the world.
A good proportion of South Africa’s wines are “a true representation of what it is”, which means careful analysis is done on the health of the soil, little or no use of herbicides, insecticides or other chemicals, and micro-organisms are introduced into the soil to help the vines produce good grapes without the use of chemicals. “It’s about respecting the environment and ensuring there is continuity in the cultivation and production of wine.”
Also growing in South Africa and globally is biodynamic wine farming, which stems from the ideas and recommendations of Rudolf Steiner. According to Wikipedia, “As a practical method of farming, biodynamics embodies the idea of ever-increasing ecological self-sufficiency just as with modernagro-ecology, but includes ethical-spiritual considerations. This type of viticulture views the farm as a cohesive, interconnected, living system.”
Chan says about 60 wine producers in South Africa list themselves as ‘biodynamic in conversion’ or ‘seeking biodynamic certification’. “The claim is that biodynamic wine farming brings a huge spike in the quality of the wine, which would more than make up for a possible drop in quantity of wine produced.”
Chan says that Tsogo Sun, which last year spent a total of R3.5 million at the Nederburg and Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild auctions, taking top spot at both auctions for total sales by a single bidder, has four primary criteria for wine producers that it considers when buying wines for the group. “The first is quality, the second is ‘sense of place’ (terroir), the third is distribution, and the fourth is brand appeal. No matter how good a wine is, if the producers have not put any effort into marketing their wine, it’s not going to move out of our cellars, and that’s not a situation we can afford.”
He adds that wines that fit the criteria, and have a “personality attached to them; a story attached to the bottle or the winery, a story of how the wine was made to get that specifictaste profile,” are wines that are likely to be popular across the Tsogo Sun properties.
Out of interest, he mentions that in terms of Tsogo Sun’s wine consuming markets in South Africa, by far the biggest wine market for is Johannesburg, which accounts for 74% of all Tsogo Sun’s wine sales. And of that 74%, adds Chan, over 50% is in the Sandton / Hyde Park 5km “golden circle”. Montecasino as a single property accounts for a total of 11% of Tsogo Sun’s wine sales.
We’re proud of the wines of South Africa and the effort and care that is put into producing them; it echoes the care that we put into selecting the right wines for our properties and serving them as part of our world-class food and beverage offering.
Miguel Chan | Tsogo Sun’s group sommelier
Tsogo Sun has a portfolio of over 90 hotels and 14 casino and entertainment destinations throughout South Africa, Africa, the Seychelles and Abu Dhabi. For further information, go to www.tsogosun.com.
More About Tsogo Sun
Tsogo Sun is the leading hotels, gaming and entertainment company in South Africa, providing a variety of hospitality and exciting entertainment and leisure experiences. Combining an established heritage with a professional and energised approach, the group proudly encompasses 14 casinos and over 90 hotels in South Africa, Africa, and the Seychelles.
The company’s hospitality interests offer a wide distribution of hotels in Africa, providing world-class accommodation across all markets, including elegant, individually branded luxury hotels and well-known trusted market leaders in the premier through budget segments, including Southern Sun Hotels, Garden Court, SunSquare, StayEasy and SUN1 hotels.
The exciting urban and resort casino portfolio includes the most popular entertainment destinations, strategically locatedthroughout South Africa. In the Gauteng province, Tsogo Sun owns the group’s flagship property, Montecasino in Fourways, which features, amongst other attractions, the award-winning Teatro; Gold Reef City Casino and Theme Park in Southern Johannesburg; and Silverstar Casino to the West in Krugersdorp. Additional properties are owned and operated in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, including the jewel on Durban’s Golden Mile, Suncoast Casino, Hotels and Entertainment.
Tsogo Sun’s philosophy of sustainability has seen the group structuring its support of the communities in which it operates into three main pillars of investment. This includes Corporate Social Investment, whereby the group promotes the development of learners through three academies which offer holistic, full-year programmes centred around sport, art and education; Enterprise Development which focuses on skills-based entrepreneurial development through its Tsogo Sun Book a Guesthouse and Supplier Development programme; and Environmental Management, committed to initiatives that reduce the impact the business has on the environment.
Tsogo Sun (“TSH”) is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The key shareholders of Tsogo Sun are Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited (“HCI”), a JSE listed investment holding company.
Tsogo Sun Gaming supports the National Responsible Gambling Programme. Winners know when to stop. Only persons over the age of 18 are permitted to gamble. National Problem Gambling counselling toll-free helpline: 0800 006 008.