Cultural immersion for visiting US wine retailers & distributors

Thursday, 4 April, 2013
Cape Classics
A township tour followed by lunch at the iconic Mzoli’s restaurant in Gugulethu, was the highlight for a touring group of influential US wine distributors and retailers.
The group, brought to South Africa by New York-based wine importer Cape Classics, visited Langa, Nyanga, Gugulethu and the Ekhaya Ekhasi Art and Education Centre in Khayelitsha. They also experienced wine tastings, lunches and braais at the likes of Kanonkop, Thelema, Buitenverwachting, De Morgenzon, De Toren, Raats Family Wines, Glenelly, Bartinney, Excelsior and Weltevrede.

“We bring all of our guests into the townships because the trip is so much bigger than wine,” said Rob Bradshaw, the President & COO of Cape Classics.

“Yes, we could easily march them from spectacular property to spectacular property all day long – but I would like our distribution and retail partners to leave understanding the heart and soul of South Africa. I want them to see and feel the entire story.”

Bradshaw, who is based in New York, said eight years ago when stood in those same townships he saw nothing but aluminum lean-tos and poverty. “I mean abject poverty and a lack of hope. Today, I stand on the balcony of a creative center in the middle of that same neighborhood and see dozens and dozens of permanent structures being built and mini-businesses being born. Change is happening and it is exciting to see.”

The buyers and retailers, from the likes of retailer Chelsea Wine Vault and distributor M.S. Walker, were hosted by some of the region’s most respected producers and winemakers including Johann and Marie Krige and Abrie Beeslaar (Kanonkop), Carl van der Merwe (De Morgenzon), Emil den Dulk and Albie Koch (De Toren), Gyles Webb and Rudi Schultz (Thelema), Lars Maack and Brad Paton (Buitenverwachting), Bruwer Raats (Raats Family Wines), Luke O’Cuinneagain (Glenelly), Rose Jordaan and Ronell Wiid (Bartinney), Freddie and Peter de Wet (Excelsior), and Philip Jonker (Weltevrede).

The lunch at Mzoli’s with Cape Classics brands Indaba and Jam Jar, was hosted by winemaker Bruwer Raats. The wine distributors and retailers also got to visit Table Mountain and experience a sunset concert at Kirstenbosch, before flying back to the US.

Bradshaw flew back to the US impressed with the improved quality of red wine being produced in South Africa: “I’m finding the days of the ‘smoky’ and overstated oak are being replaced by an extraordinary purity of fruit and attention to detail.”

He has also noticed a change in the local wine industry. “The thing that struck me most was how this industry is getting younger. There is a changing of the guard, to the next generation of deeply qualified and passionate winemakers in their late 30s and 40s,” Bradshaw said.

“Scanning the landscape, I’m very impressed with the quality and vision. I’m specifically thinking of Luke at Glenelly, Abrie at Kanonkop, Carl at De Morgenzon, Peter at Excelsior, Brad at Buitenverwachting, Bruwer (Indaba and Raats Family), Albie at De Toren and Rudi Schultz at Thelema. There is a tangible drumbeat happening right now, as all of these guys hit their prime.”
Township fever
Township fever

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