Simonsig, a pioneering South Africa’s wine estate based in Stellenbosch and one that introduced wine tourism to South Africa in the 1970’s, is in the throes of another bumper season in terms of visitors and tasting-room sales. With tourists from local regions as well as far-clung nations showing a thirst for Pinotage!
“It was really eye-opening to see novice wine-tasters buying a few cases of wine which they had experienced for the first time,” says Denzel Swarts, Tasting Room Manager at Simonsig. “Besides our Cap Classique range for which Simonsig is known, people showed huge interest in wines representing a South African character, especially our Redhill Pinotage and the Frans Malan Cape Blend. It was noticeable that when visitors begin to ask for red wine, Pinotage is top of the list. And it is great to tell them the Pinotage story, of which we are very proud as this grape has always been one of our focus varieties on the farm.”
According to Denzel this year’s holiday season began later than usual as visitors from upcountry and overseas spent their first few days experiencing the Cape’s other attractions before hitting the winelands.
“The surge in visitors began around the 20th of December, from which the tasting room and the farm’s other attractions were inundated with tourists from Gauteng, the Free State and overseas countries, especially Sweden, German and America,” he says.
The 12 staff conducting tastings of Simonsig’s diverse selection of wines were kept on their toes from opening to closing time.
“Besides the three formal tastings available of our Cap Classique, Cultivar Wines and Family Selection Range, visitors were keen to do cellar- tours, visit the Cuvée Restaurant and enjoy other offerings, such as cheese platters and olives. We are finding visitors spending more time on the wine farm, looking for activities outside of wine-tasting alone – we did up to six cellar tours on some days, for example.”
Denzel noted that while visitor-traffic was slightly down in numbers, people bought more wine from the tasting-room than in the past.
Many of the first-time visitors were Simonsig drinkers who wanted to experience the home of their favourite wines, while quite a number of guests had popped in to taste wine for the very first time!
“For us doing the tastings for our guests, it is a very rewarding experience introducing people to a product they had never been exposed to before,” says Swarts. “One can learn a lot about people’s impressions of wine, what they do or not like. The fact that many of these first-timers would leave with a few bottles of their new hobby, made it extra rewarding.”