Two years of hard team work, and considered capital investment, have paid off for Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West, a provincial heritage site renowned for its wine, hospitality and environmental initiatives. The 322-year-old estate has been announced the winner of the coveted Wine Tourism Services category in the 2023 Best of Wine Tourism Awards (BOWTA).
This annual competition is designed to reward wineries in each member region of the Great Wine Capital global network for their excellent facilities and services. There are seven award categories, from art and culture to sustainable wine tourism. The awards also provide visitors with a list of the best places to experience.
Wayne Coetzer, Managing Director of the 322-year-old estate, said: “This is absolutely wonderful news. We are delighted to win this award, which validates all the hard work put in by the team over the past two years to ensure that Vergelegen is truly a world-class location. it’s all about people, both our staff and our visitors, and we look forward to continuing this wonderful relationship.”
André Morgenthal, a wine tourism veteran and moderator of the awards, said: “Tourism is very important for our wine industry and the BOWTA awards bring us onto a stage where we rub shoulders with some of the best wine offerings in the world.
“It was interesting for me to see that the quality of the offerings was exceptional this year. We have absolutely world-class offerings in all categories, and there are certain categories that are unique to South Africa. It is encouraging to see wineries that have been trying hard to create something authentic, special and real. This is one platform where everyone can stand and talk wine tourism for South Africa.”
Coetzer said that Vergelegen enables visitors to experience the three cornerstones of Cape culture – heritage and gardens, environment and landscape, and hospitality and wine – in one easy-to reach destination.
Numerous innovations at the estate during 2020 and 2021 included upgrading the tasting room with working fire places to ensure cosy gatherings in the cooler months. There is now a glass-fronted, air-conditioned Vinoteque, where wine lovers and collectors have easy access to sought-after, award-winning older vintages.
Wine tasting experiences include a wine and charcuterie tasting (all farm-made produce), a wine and camembert tasting, plus ever-evolving monthly wine pairings.
A new, French-styled restaurant, Café Fleur, has received rave reviews, while Stables Restaurant now has a barista coffee station. All front of staff attended butler training last year to ensure impeccable service standards.
Vergelegen has an updated, more interactive website, with an online shop. Visitors can enjoy a guided environmental tour and vineyards are now included in the cellar tour.
All gardens have been spruced up. Especially notable is the sundial garden, which replaced the herb and vegetable garden. Produce from a separate vegetable garden supplies the Vergelegen kitchens and there are weekly donations to local nonprofit organisations.
“During the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020, Vergelegen financed and produced 29 000 meals for Ubuntu Feeds, a local Rotary Club initiative to feed the truly hungry in our local communities,” said Coetzer. “We continue to provide farm-cultivated vegetables on a weekly basis to Helderberg Hospital, Heartlands baby sanctuary and the Somerset West night shelter.”
Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, Mireille Wenger, said: “During my Tourism Month tour, I was fortunate enough to have visited some of these winners, and I can attest to their excellent service, quality products and warm hospitality. Wine tourism is a cornerstone of the Western Cape’s remarkable offer to visitors from across South Africa and the world, and I am so proud that these businesses are once again helping put our province on the map.”