Down to a vine art: Best of Wine Tourism and Ambassador Awards 2022

What makes great wine? Is it the grapes? The wisdom of a world class winemaker? Or is it the chance of all the environmental factors coming together for historical harvest? 

South African wineries hit the right mix of curating a wine experience that transcends sipping and tasting the season’s wines. That is why the Best of Wine Tourism and Ambassador Awards invite South African and international wineries to throw their hats into the awards across seven different categories: arts and culture, accommodation, restaurants, architecture and landscapes, wine tourism services, innovation and sustainability. To take it one step further, the Ambassador Awards showcase the best in authentic South African experiences, diversity, and the World Wildlife Fund Conservation Pioneer Awards. 

The top five in each category will celebrate in October 2022. Entries close on Friday, 5 August 2022 on the Best of Wine Tourism website. 

Grape minds 

Have you ever been offered the option to look at a pillow menu? At Delaire Graff, guests are offered options for different pillows because the quality of sleep during your stay is more memorable than one would think. Whether it’s a “classic down, memory foam, or anything in between”, this winery knows what it takes to curate the ultimate wine experience beyond the cellars. 

Perched on the foot of the Helshoogte Pass, between the mountains of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, Delaire Graff is a not-so-hidden-gem of the Cape Winelands and they are fluent in the languages of luxury and perfection. Delaire Graff was awarded best in accommodation at last year’s Best in Wine Tourism Awards for their impeccable luxury accommodation experiences that range from luxurious lodges to presidential villas with bespoke bedrooms, private art gallery, or offering [notoriously] indulgent products from Dr Barbara Sturm. 

According to Damien Joubert-Winn, head of marketing at Delaire Graff, the award-winning lodgings are in continuous “pursuit of perfection”. 

“The team is always looking to elevate the experience. Every touchpoint is on another level,” says Joubert-Winn. “Guests will come here and look at the labels of the pillows, of the mattresses, and think ‘I cannot get this stuff anywhere else,’” he adds. 

Sagacious curators of winery hospitality experiences at Delaire Graff do not hold back with offerings of private terraces with heated pools that overlook the Botmaskop mountain or a personal butler and chef to ensure every need is met. Surely this is the epitome of luxury. 

Launched on 1 August 2022, Delaire Graff takes their experience of luxury to the next level as the exclusive retailer in Africa for Augustine Bader, another luxury skincare brand that many of Delaire Graff’s guests are sure to be familiar with. 

The Best in Wine Tourism’s criteria for such an award goes beyond whether you offer a comfortable stay for guests, or how well curated the experience is as a whole. A rather self-reflective exercise, wineries who enter into the accommodation category are asked to differentiate the experience of guests from other wineries; the tourist economic effect on the region, as well as the quality and type of accommodation offered. 

“People come here to replenish. The vistas are breathtaking, and the level of staffing for one guest is on another level,” explains Joubert-Winn, who compares the quality of service to that of Dubai’s seven star Burj Al Arab. 

To know good wine, one needs to drink a lot of it. But experiencing good wine does not take connoisseur level knowledge, especially with a passionate sommelier in the restaurant. Creation Wines took home the best restaurant award in the realm of wine tourism for their Tasting Room. 

The Tasting Room, too, had to take a step back to reflect on their iservice and contribution to the tourism of Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, the style of the restaurants, menu philosophy as well as how the restaurant is marketed as a part of wine tourism — a reason to visit the winery — a 360 view of an food and wine experience. 

Summer 2022 is looking bright for South African wineries and the tourism sector too. Since the increase in foreign tourists returning to South African wineries during the summer of 2021, Delaire Graff’s lodgings are almost fully booked for this year’s summer season thanks to the network of tourism boards pointing to South Africa on their maps. 

Message in a bottle 

The great wine regions of the world, Bordeaux, Porto, Napa Valley and, of course, Stellenbosch offer something niche to their geography beyond their unique wine varieties. As part of the Great Wine Capitals, the Western Cape’s winemakers are among the best in the world. Take a look at Kannonkop’s head winemaker, Abrie Beeslaar, who has been named the International Winemaker of the Year three times, or Babylonstoren, which received the top award for innovation wine experience by Best of Wine Tourism. 

If a bottle of your favourite South African wine with a letter rolled up inside floated away from the shores of Cape Town to the shores of a foreign land, what would the letter say about that wine,  the place where it comes from, or where the wine was last enjoyed? 

If a bottle of Delaire Graff’s 2019 Botmaskop had a letter inside to be found in a foreign land, it would read that “Delaire Graff is the most fabulous destination in the world”, says Joubert-Winn. 

“It [accommodation], is only a piece of a most fabulous puzzle. Botmaskop is a wine whose vineyards are only one of three that grow up against the Botmaskop mountain, 980 metres above sea level. You would taste the terroir: that this wine is from South Africa, from Stellenbosch, and specifically rooted in Botmaskop,” explains Joubert-Winn. 
The greatest challenge of making any wine is that it should speak to its sense of place. That is why the Best in Wine Tourism Awards speak to such an integral part of what keeps the global wine industry alive, the experience of that winery in connection to where it comes from. With that being said, award-winning wineries evolve the experiences offered to their guests as the environment surrounding them evolves too, much like the elements affecting each year’s harvest.  

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