Cape Coastal Kaiseki at FYN restaurant. PICTURE: Supplied
Cape Coastal Kaiseki at FYN restaurant. PICTURE: Supplied

Once again, global bodies prove that South African cuisine and wines are world class

By Sacha van Niekerk Time of article published Oct 16, 2021

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It has been a dire 18 months for the South African restaurant industry. Iconic restaurants had to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic that brought crippling lockdowns.

The alcohol industry also suffered, with alcohol sales prohibited by the government.

Wine and restaurant bodies lobbied the government to be lenient, requests which sometimes fell on deaf ears.

So the recent wins by the country’s best restaurant and vineyards, has been met with joy by the industry and will likely bring in foot traffic to aid in the recovery of the industry.

South African restaurants and vineyards dominated on an international scale in the World’s Best Vineyards and World’s 50 Best Restaurants by placing in the top.

It should never come as a surprise to anybody, least of all South Africans when our wines and restaurants are recognised by global bodies and receive the highest accolades. We are a world-class producer of the finest wines, and our restaurants and hotels are right up there with the very best.

Creation Wine Estate was one of the three South African vineyards placed in the top 50, ranking at number 10 in the World’s Best Vineyards– the highest-ever achieved for a South African wine estate. Delaire Graff ranked 30th, while Klein Constantia, took the 44th spot. Spier Wine Farm bagged the 68th spot, while Babylonstoren (72), Steenberg (84), Waterford Estate (88), Tokara Winery (97) and Haute Cabrière (98) also made the Top 100 list.

Nearly 600 renowned wine connoisseurs, sommeliers, and luxury travel reporters from throughout the world make up the academy that chooses the best vineyards. Each was chosen for their expertise in the field of international wine and wine tourism.

When it comes to the voting process, all aspects of the visit to the vineyard are considered, including the tour, tasting, atmosphere, wine, food, service, view, value for money, reputation, and accessibility. It encompasses everything that makes a vineyard visit a worthwhile and gratifying experience for tourists and encourages them to return or refer their friends.

Carolyn Martin, Co-Owner, Founder and Marketing Director of Creation Wines, shared her thoughts on the essence of the vineyard and what its recent success means to her.

“To place among the world's best vineyards is testament to the world-class standard of our wines and offerings. We are very proud indeed as our peers are famous brands, and we feel honoured to have this recognition.”

On a more personal level, Martin believes that the recognition reflects the spirit of the Creation team, who are dedicated to not only building an innovative brand, but also to co-elevating each other.

“Our achievement comes from the input of a wonderfully varied and wide range of people. On any given day, we engage with our team, other winemakers, viticulturists, academics, government, guests, suppliers, agents, wine business specialists and writers – local and international. These diverse interactions greatly contribute to the rich texture of Creation's ever-changing tapestry,” she said.

Placed among some of the most celebrated vineyards from across the globe, South African vineyards stand out among international competitors because of the stunning landscape boasting majestic mountain and sea views that pair exceptionally with inviting hospitality.

The fine cuisine at Wolfgat, one of the finest restaurants in the world. PICTURE: Wolfgat

“The natural beauty of our environment is breathtaking and our visitors simply love the pristine air. Our warm South African hospitality and good weather are additional attractions. We have become renowned for our fine South African wines and culinary creativity. There are few places on earth where quality wine tourism experiences are so affordable.”

As the world begins to open up after the pandemic derailed travel plans and opportunities to visit our vineyards dwindled, Creation is placing focus on their ability to be a living, thinking wine estate that pulses collective energy and bright ideas.

“We believe this award will provide more opportunities for our team and our business to collaborate, helping us to innovate all aspects - from viticulture and winemaking to the kitchen, culinary and hospitality team. These ongoing investments will provide ever more rewarding experiences for our clients and stakeholders,” she said.

The World's 50 Best Restaurants has been honouring the richness of the world's culinary scene since 2002. The annual list of the greatest restaurants showcases some of the top locations for distinctive culinary experiences and serves as a barometer for global culinary trends, thanks to its panel of more than 1000 culinary experts.

Browsing through their list is inspiring as it boasts a diverse range of modern architectural wonders, Unesco-protected historic cellars, Michelin-starred restaurants, and quaint family-owned wineries where the employees are the lifeblood of the establishment’s international success.

The Paternoster based Wolfgat was once again made the list as one of the 50 best restaurants in the world, bagging the 50th spot. La Colombe and FYN were voted 81st and 92nd, respectively.

South African restaurants offer patrons an experience that extends beyond the food. From the awe-inspiring scenery to the layering of sophisticated flavours and techniques harnessed from a range of countries and cultures, the aim is to tantalise every single one of our five senses.

Grace Harding, the spokesperson for the Restaurant Collective, shared her thoughts on this and exactly what she believes pushes our restaurants to the forefront. “We are one of the world’s most bio-diverse countries – our chefs are innovating by incorporating unique indigenous ingredients into their offerings. Add wonderful sights and sceneries to warm, vibrant serving staff, and you have created something beautiful and enticing.”

Good food begins with the best ingredients, and we are blessed with access to some of the freshest and finest produce sourced from local farms and artisanal businesses.

“We have an amazing game, meat, seafood and fresh agricultural products that no one has. Our fauna and flora allow for unique flavours, just think rooibos, karoo lamb, crayfish, Kalahari truffles, and boegoe,” said Harding.

Of course, it is also thanks to the diverse population of our country that we have such broad flavour palettes to choose from.

Fine dining at La Colombe, in Cape Town. PICTURE: La Colombe

“One of our greatest strengths is our diverse population – not many places where you can have the best of Portuguese, Greek, Traditional Afrikaans, Malay, African and Indian foods. The magic starts happening when all these styles inspire each other, and a unique fusion of flavours and eating styles start to happen.”

With the advent of cooking programs and Instagram, dining had become unadulterated entertainment. As borders open up, Harding said: “There is no doubt that people want to live again. Tourists and locals will plan their holidays around destinations that offer great food, and having such accolades cultivates our global market audience as we become known for our interesting food experiences. Our relative affordability will broaden the group of people that can experience this. Young people will see the restaurant industry as a future where they can live out their creativity.”

For the industry, the path ahead is about continuing to innovate and create our own distinctive cooking rather than follow.

“Use more of our indigenous flavours and reinvent what our grandparents used to eat. Get young people to eat healthier, wean them off fast foods and bring appreciation for our heritage and healthier, tastier and more discerning meals.”

This article was first published in Saturday Insider, Oct 16, 2021

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