Wrapping up the year for wine.co.za

Sunday, 29 December, 2013
Shante Hutton, wine.co.za
How do you put an entire year into one article? There are so many big things that I want to squeeze into a few words.
“Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”
  L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz

So here's looking at a few standout moments from our side...

A proud moment for South Africa:
Xolani Mancotywa, 27, won the title of 2013 Best Young Sommelier in South Africa - and it couldn't have been awarded to a nicer guy. 

Originally from Cape Town, Xolani Mancotywa was the sommelier at the Saxon Hotel in Sandhurst, Gauteng, South Africa, from 1 November 2012.  He holds the rank of Certified Sommelier (March 2013) from the Court of Master Sommeliers, based in the United Kingdom.  In addition, he has also achieved distinction in several other wine achievements, the Level 3 Advanced exam of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) - Cape Town, South Africa(April 2013) and Level 2 Intermediate (October 2012).  (Read the full article here)

Xolani recently took up a position as sommelier in Dubai at The Capital Club and was placed 4th in the worldwide sommelier contest held in Washington earlier this year.

Xolani became interested in wine as a career at Warwick Chef School during wine appreciation lectures in 2008.  “I was intrigued by the other learners being able to associate freshly cut grass with Sauvignon Blanc,” he said.  “In that moment I knew I had a lot to drink and subsequently learn. This was with the hope of also enlightening those that were as lost as I was when it came to wine."

The most read news article of the year:
At first I thought it was going to be ‘that’ article, you know the one which led to us being called goblins and trolls - a term I'm highly against not least because, if I was a magical creature, I would love nothing better than to add another Shakesperean Bottom to the world.

But, fortunately, the most read article was the announcement of the Decanter World Wine Awards 2013 winners with 9538 views.

Judges at this year's Decanter World Wine Awards tasted a record-breaking 14 362 wines and awarded nearly 10,000 medals. (Read the full article here)

This article garnered more views than Veritas, Michelangelo or Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, proving that we still have a considerable way to go with publicity of our wine award shows.

"Four for you Glen Coco, You GO Glen Coco!":
Platters went a little crazy, dishing out 80 5* awards this year.
The biggest winning category, Chenin Blanc, featured some real stunners - The darling of the vineyard is finally get her dues.
I almost managed to leave with 3 guides tucked in my handbag.
Here's hoping that next year, Platters change venue and actually host the awards in a room which doesn't make you feel like you're a sardine.

Favourite event:
Side-splitting moments were not just reserved for the giggles and good times but, one must have a moment's silence for my poor wardrobe and the pounds that have piled on from various events offering new wine releases and exquisite food.

So many wonderful invites have been sent out and I proclaim that Nicolette Waterford knows how to call in the right people and send you home laden with gifts and a full stomach.

But my favourite event, that I still can't quite get over, was the Spier New Journey; A weekend spent on the estate getting to know every intricate detail from the wines to the hotel, the food at Eight and the Gables Audio Tour, to a Segway trip giving a deeper look at their sustainable farming practices.
I could have stayed there longer and I encourage every South African to get their tourist on and explore Spier for themselves.
You can read the full article here

On a side note, for consistency, Wine Concepts hit the right note every time with their gatherings at the Vineyard. Picking select varieties and not bombarding guests with too much, means for more detailed tastings and comparisons. Their "Finer Things in Life" Champagne Festival had guests channeling a French theme and a lot of skirts (and eyebrows) were raised.

Most drunk wine:

Villiera Rose Brut and Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc were in endless supply at the office, making me question as to how I actually get so much work done.

Shop’s best seller:
Weltevrede continues to dominate our shop sales with their Cherrychoc Marlot flying off our shelves.
Our best selling cellars this year were Weltevrede, Raka, Cederberg.

New kids on the block
Duplessis joined us as our new web designer and developer and Malannie came on board to help manage updates.
The poor chaps didn't even have time to settle in, both were thrown straight into the deep end but have remained afloat through copious amounts of cake and tea.

The excitement that went around the office when we launched the new-look website was magnanimous. It's been a long time coming but with 13 people in the office, all with different ideas and needs, pleasing everyone was never going to be easy.
But it's launched, it looks lovely and every day I load the news page and stroke the screen whilst feeling a whole lot better about the world.

The wine.co.za "Cheers to you" awards:
We hosted our very own mini awards lunch wishing to praise those wineries and individuals who go the extra mile, not just with their wine, but in areas such as, "efficient client" and "actively green winery".
The list of our chosen winners can be found here and we're hoping to look at other wineries who are setting high examples in their tasting rooms and with their marketing campaigns.
See the list of winners here and the photos here

Team Spirit
I asked some of the wine.co.za team what their most memorable moment of the year was:

Zwai Gumede

"Never mind that I didn’t win, but taking part in the International Wine Tasting Championship was for me, a highlight.
Had it just remained a ‘tasting’ for me, who knows what could have happened... and of course seeing the South African team doing well in France in the same competition was just a refill in my glass."

Kudzai - Bun in the oven - Dzemwa.
As if expecting a new website wasn't enough, the wine.co.za team is soon to grow by a quarter with our data manager soon-to-be expecting a baby boy.

"The biggest highlight about finding out I was pregnant was that I had the whole of wine.co.za stood by me, supported and encouraged me and literally kept me strong. Judy, once again proving to be the soul that holds this company together, emotionally, phsychologically and professionally. Without her and Sheryl (who has proved that indeed dynamite comes in small packages - you are a rock Sheryl) - well, there wouldnt be a wine.co.za baby happily coming into the world of wine. "

Judy Brower. C.F.O
"Wine.co.za has been operating now for 17 years and it is very exciting to launch our new look wine.co.za this month. This has been an 18 month project and Kevin, Garth and Duplessis have been feverishly working on this.  The new site brings new connectivity between data, ie photos/events/articles; better SEO, more imagery, better map usage to make our winelands so much more accessible to visitors. We welcome your input!

2014 – time to grow our readership even more with the new site...  and our Online Sales... watch this space!"

New Year resolutions?
Aside from topping the number of wines tasted in 2013, I am really gunning for a wider appreciation of wine and food. Pairing parties are the way forward my friends and I can feel 2014 might just be the year of showing of those culinary skills.