Hospitality – Building Bridges



Understanding the basics of certain wines from particular countries from where guests originate, can assist in connecting and building a stronger relationship with them.

Wine is a broad subject and often complicated and confusing, but often a few pointers and bits of knowledge can go a long way to creating a greater understanding of this special drink. For the purpose of this article, lets take guests coming from three different countries into consideration – English, German and American.

English wine (yes it is exists!) is certainly on the up. England (and Wales) have nearly 1000 hectares of vineyards spread over the southern half of the country. The most exciting category for them is most certainly sparkling wine and provides an interesting alternative to the “real thing”, Champagne, from France.  Remember that Champagne is the name of the region in north-east France that produces the sparkling wine with the same name. Any sparkling wine produced around the world outside of this area is not permitted to be called Champagne. Very simply the chalk soil (one of the aspects that makes Champagne unique) on which a lot of the English vineyards are grown are no different to Champagne. In addition with global warming, the challenges of getting grapes to ripen sufficiently has been dramatically reduced. As a result there are 100 odd wineries in England trying to harness these conditions and are starting to produce some high quality sparkling wine. They are generally produced from the same grape varieties used in Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier). Some of the most well known English names are Chapel Down, Camel Valley, Ridge View, Nyetimber.

Germany produces some of the finest white wines in the world. Like all fine wines, it is the combination between climate, soil and grape that makes certain regions in Germany unique. One of the most famous is certainly the wines that are produced from the Riesling grape in the Mosel wine region. The Mosel is one of the thirteen regions in Germany. The style of the wine you get in this region ranges from dry to very sweet but in general the grape exhibits an  aromatic, delicate, racy, expressive and rarely oaked style of white wine. A guest interested in this style of wine could be suggested a South African alternative. A Riesling from Paul Cluver in Elgin or Klein Constantia for example, could be suggested. Bear in mind that our Riesling has a much higher alcohol that what is found in Germany. The German Riesling is often at around 6-9 % alcohol whereas the South African examples will be between approximately 12-15 %.

Wine is basically produced throughout North America but the main hot spot for wine is on the west coast, California. California accounts for nearly 90% of America’s total wine production. Wines are generally made from “international” grape varieties- more mainstream varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz on the red front and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc on the white side. The consistently warm weather allows most wineries to use very ripe fruit and often craft wines that are a lot more fruit forward than wines from “Old World” countries like France and Italy. Zinfandel is a grape variety often found in California and this particular grape achieves very high sugar levels and often results in very high alcohol levels- 16, 17 % for example. Blaauwklippen in Stellenbosch is one of the few South African wineries that makes a Zinfandel. Good wine styles to suggest to the American drinker would be our Bordeaux-styled blends. Remember that a Bordeaux blend is terminology based on the region of Bordeaux in the west of France where the red blends from the area are only permitted to use 5 grape varieties, namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.  

Derek Kilpin currently co-owns a specialist fine wine importing business in Johannesburg called Great Domaines. He has been in the wine industry for the last 12 years including stints in the wine trade in Dublin and London. He has his advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (W.S.E.T) and through Great Domaines he is passionately trying to grow the awareness of the world of fine wines to wine-drinkers both novice and professional.

Future articles will discuss further methods and tips as to how one can add value to your guest’s bush experience from a wine point of view. And you'll be having fun too!