On Tuesday the 4th of August, I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Vinimark Trade and Media Wine Trade Fair at the Mother City’s ultramodern CTICC by special invite as one of the media.
Although I have visited and been wine-tasting on some of South Africa’s most beautiful, notable wine estates and wine cellars over the past few years, most especially last year, (including, to name but a few: Boschendal, Nederburg, Tokara, Fairview, Van Loveren, Zorgvliet and Zandvliet – the last of which was one of the 40-plus prestigious, time-honoured and well-represented estates at this year’s Vinimark Wine Fair) in the Western Cape, I had never before attended a Wine Fair of any kind and as such, it was a somewhat daunting, yet exciting prospect for me.
The event – which was particularly special this year, given that it was also a celebration of Vinimark’s 30th anniversary – was held in the spacious Ballroom East, that was tastefully decorated with floating pockets of white balloons, large, proud, stand-alone ‘Vinimark’ signs and an almost endless array of white-clothed tables strategically placed around the sides and centre of the room and bearing a vast array of crystal clear wine- and flute-glasses, wine decanters, chilled ice buckets containing expensive, exquisitely labelled wine and champagne bottles, attractive pamphlets and business cards, as well as pretty flower vases.
Vinimark Trading Pty (Ltd).*, distributors of more than 50 of S.A.’s best known and loved wine brands, is the largest independent wine wholesale company in South Africa that specialises in all aspects of wine distribution and marketing.
* (For more info. on Vinimark – The Wine Company – please contact them direct on: +27 (021) 883 8043 or visit their Stellenbosch office at 5 Herold Street; for more info. on WineWorx– Fine Wine Merchants, please call: +27 021 886 9165)
In the days running up the Wine Trade Fair event, which kicked off at 15:30 p.m. sharp and was scheduled to run till about 19:30 p.m., I decided to research all of the represented estates, and managed to look up most of the imported French champagne producers too, and I was most impressed by all the websites, which were as beautifully and professionally laid-out, as they were informative! 🙂
According to the attractive blue-and-white ‘Vinimark WineWorx 2015 Price List’ booklet that was available to guests, as far as the champagne was concerned, there was: Ayala, Bollinger, Nicholas Feuillatte, Gosset and Armand de Brignac (endorsed by celebrity power couple, Beyonce and Jay Z before they purchased it in 2014).
Then for the wine we had: Luc Belaire (imported from France), Carol Boyes Wine Gifting, Accolade/Flagstone, Accolade/Fish Hoek & Kumala, Altydgedacht, Barista, Boekenhoutskloof, Bon Courage, Constantia Glen, Creation, Dalla Cia, Darling Cellars, De Krans, Delaire Graff, DeMorgenzon, Edgebaston, Fryer’s Cove, Glenelly, Goedverwacht, Graceland Strawberry Fields, Groot Constantia, Helderberg, House of Mandela, Klawer Cellars, Krone, La Bri, Landskroon, Lanzerac, L’Avenir, Leeuwenkuil, Le Riche, Morgenhof, Muratie, Neil Ellis, Overgaauw, Reyneke, Rietvallei, Robertson Winery, Robertson Winery/Fat Bastard, Rustenberg, Shannon, Spier, Springfield, Vilafonte, Villiera, Warwick and the previously mentioned Zandvliet.
The rich heritage and history (as well as the latest biodiversity, community and eco-friendly minded conservation projects and practices that have been incorporated by and implemented on so many of these local estates) of all concerned producers, estates – the products of which Vinimark expertly distributes and markets every year – and their passionate, hands-on owners and/or deeply respected winemakers was indeed a welcome and fascinating online experience for me – as was the event that followed on a perfectly moody, cold Tuesday afternoon that was ideal for sipping on (and swirling) deliciously fresh or smooth wine and refreshingly crisp imported bubbly.
I saved some relevant notes on each of the producers to my smartphone and it was this foreknowledge that often influenced the tables that I’d stopped at to sample some truly wonderful champagne and wine alike.
Another aspect that personally reeled me in was the friendly representatives (both from the relevant estates and Vinimark’s own staff) who went the extra mile welcome to a young woman, feeling somewhat out of her depth, with a limited wine knowledge (although, during my childhood, I was privileged enough to grow up in and around local vineyards and wine farms in the Montagu, Hex River Valley and BAR Valley areas, so I am by no means entirely ignorant of the wine-making process(es) involved when it comes to the country’s great and small estates/cellars alike).
I particularly liked the reps who went into detail about the products or production processes behind these top-class drinks. For example, the Klapmuts-based Glen Carlou’s ‘Unwooded Chardonnay 2014’ that I kicked off my wine-tasting side of things with, came with an interesting story. Essentially, this wine has been produced in an ‘egg-shaped’ container before being bottled, thus making it an ‘unwooded’ wine.
(It was indeed very good and I am especially partial to white wines, but I must confess that I naturally gravitate more towards the fresh, fruity whites so these will take the cake for me more often than not, as you will notice below.)
Out of interest, Glen Carlou is a four-generation Paarl estate owned by the world-renowned Hess Family, who hail from Bern, Switzerland where they originally founded the Hess Family Wine Estates in 1844 and have opted the self-styled slogan of: ‘Curators of Classic Wine’, something they are most certainly worthy of. (For more information, please contact them telephonically on: +27 (021) 875 5528.)
Although all the wine bottles were beautifully packaged, the packaging and labels from two estates, namely L’Avenir Estate and La Bri, in particular caught my eye and all but took my breath away with their detailed, truly South African sketches of local fauna and flora.
L’Avenir’s also has a “hint of French flair” to it too, just as their lovely pamphlet says, which is why, for example, on my favourite label you see a Springbok sniffing a rooster 🙂 (For more info. on this wonderful estate, situated in the Stellenbosch winelands area known as the ‘golden triangle’, please call them on: + 27 (021) 889 5001)
Whilst Franschhoek-based La Bri’s labels and wines are named after local Cape flowers (except for the Shiraz Viognier, which, according to www.labri.co.za, “appropriately features herbs.” For more information on this fine estate, please check out their website or call: : +27 (021) 876 2593) – hence, you have ones like the ‘Chardonnay Clivia miniata’, named and illustrated after the Yellow Clivia. Their bookmark-like pamphlet also bore examples of the actual flowers and more info. on the corresponding wines.
The representatives of both estates (I was even privileged enough to speak first-hand to Irene Waller, La Bri’s General Manager and Winemaker) kindly gave me detailed and patient accounts on the above and, like most of the other tables I stopped at, were perfectly fine with my taking close-up shots of their wines and displays during and after my wine tastings.
From La Bri, I sampled the ‘Affinity 2013’ – my first red wine of the evening (and one of the best reds I have ever tasted) – and from L’Avenir, it was the ‘Provence Chenin Blanc 2014’, both of which were excellent!
Another estate that was exceptionally well-represented by its staff and featured products was the Stellenbosch-based, Edgebaston, owned by the Finlayson family. Their latest releases are so known for several significant reasons, among them the fact that Mr David Finlayson’s maternal grandfather was born and raised in Edgebaston, in the United Kingdom (though the estate’s logo is drawn from the family’s Inverness roots, given that it depicts the family’s own take on the Scottish Thistle).
I was particularly impressed by both their chilled wines and their employees. There, I sampled the ‘Berry Box White 2015’ wine and I have to say that it was hands-down my personal favourite wine tasted at the 2015 Wine Trade Fair. This is no doubt due to my personal preference towards fresh and decidedly fruity white wines (as mentioned earlier) and however small and naive my praise may be, I believe that they deserve it all the same. 🙂 (For more info. on the estate, please see: www.edgebaston.co.za.)
To Edgebaston and La Bri alike, a big thumbs-up for having truly professional and delightful reps to interact and deal with; the service at both tables was one of the highlights of my evening!
I also sampled wines from: Robertson Winery (I tried the ‘Sparkling Sweet White NV’ but I have always adored their Sparkling Rosé and like Bon Courage and Zandvliet – ‘the home of Shiraz in South Africa’ – they are close to my heart, as they’re situated in the beautiful BAR valley area of Robertson, and thus, close to my own hometown, Montagu.) and tried the excellent, imported Bollinger champagne. (I sampled the ‘Bollinger Special Cuvée’, which sells locally for R580.00 – and both of these were great too!
Whilst wandering about the expansive room, visitors were treated to excellent service and canapés provided by the CTICC’s catering services. Every single member of their staff were extremely well-spoken, unobtrusive and above all, friendly – so a huge congratulations both to them and to the CTICC itself for providing such a slick, professional operation!
For myself, I was fortunate enough to talk to both the CTICC and Vinimark’s main staff and both were exceptionally well-represented and exceedingly welcoming on the day, something that is truly refreshing and commendable in this day and age when more often than not, consumers deal with irritable, frustrated or bored members of various hospitality services.
(Also, the provided finger food was very tasty, with different crackers/breads/biscotti complemented by roast beef and smoked salmon. There were also – amongst other delicious snacks – tempura prawns, vegetable spring rolls and an assortment of good cheeses, among them: Gordonzola, Brie and Parmesan, ever the ideal accompaniment to great wine!)
Another aspect of the event that I believe deserves recognition was the eye-catching, honey-coloured ‘crate’ display piece that was set-up in front of Ballroom East’s entrance. This was presumably sponsored by the prestigious Warwick Wine Estate – the Ratcliffe family-owned and run Stellenbsosch estate (where, aside from being the “family matriarch”, Norma Ratcliffe has been head winemaker since the 1970s and as such, according to www.warwickwine.com, she is: “often referred to as ‘The First Lady’ as one of the first woman to make wine in South Africa.”) – and paid homage to Vinimark’s 30th anniversary in simple style and elegance. (For more info. on the outstanding Warwick Estate, please see their website: or call them direct on: +27 (021) 884 4410.)
I stayed from 15:30 till around 17:40 p.m. (food was served after about an hour) but many people were only arriving from work as I was leaving. By then, in my estimation, the room was easily buzzing with a 80-100-odd sommeliers, media personnel, special guests, hoteliers, restaurateurs and wine merchants.
Before I left, I was extremely privileged to be introduced to and pose for a photo or two with Mr Neil Ellis – owner of Neil Ellis Wines, a family-run estate – and Reyneke Estate’s (one of a few ‘biodynamic wineries’ in the Western Cape’; I managed to try one of their biodynamic 2014 white wines, which was excellent, but in the rush I didn’t find out exactly which of the three on offer it was) brilliant winemaker, Mr Rudiger Gretschel by Mrs Posy Hazell – Public Relations and Wine Consultant to Vinimark and WineWorx, with some 30 years’ experience in her field – which ensured a fine and memorable end to my evening! 🙂
(For more info. on these wonderful and extremely environmentally-conscious estates, both situated in beautiful Stellenbosch, please call Neil Ellis Wines on: +27 (021) 887 0649 and Reyneke Wines on: + 27 (021) 881 3451.)
I had a great time in the end and was blessed to meet some truly lovely people and to sample some top-quality wines and champagne. It was a new but interesting experience for me and a very special thanks goes out to Mrs Posy Hazell for inviting me to this wonderful event, which was an absolute pleasure to attend!
(If you wish to find or Follow any of the estates and champagne producers on social media, most of them are active users, especially of Twitter and Instagram.)
Many thanks to: Vinimark Wineworx, the CTICC, Mrs Posy Hazell and all the wine- and champagne producers featured at the event and the ones mentioned in this post, as well as to all the websites cited for the additional info. used herein.
(Disclaimer: Please note that all views expressed herein are entirely my own and in no way reflect the views or opinions of others. Also, I have tried to be as professional and accurate as possible – but apologise for any errors relating to any of the above. Thank you.)