Blessed with wonderful (and wonderfully visitor-friendly) wine regions, the Cape is a fabulous proposition for wine lovers. Our setting canâ€™t be beaten, and as our wines improve in quality there are very few wine regions in the world that can compete on our total package, with the good value of our wines being a certain trump card.
Yet, the one place outside the wineries where our wines could be introduced and enjoyed by locals and visitors â€“ but has historically been neglected or treated very carelessly â€“ is the South African restaurant. I have written before about the ruthless mark-ups imposed on wine by restaurants. These margins come with precious little value added to the bottle. All we can do about over-priced lists is vote with our feet, or complain. 300 percent mark-ups still amaze me, since friendlier wine prices always result in higher turn-around and happier customers.
On another front, restaurants have generally not invested in the training of wait-staff in the nuances and details of the wine that they are serving. Again, it seems a no-brainer: you will certainly sell more if the waiter charmingly explains a wine you may not be familiar with. However, in a competitive industry, where part-time staff come and go, the restaurateurâ€™s argument is that this may well be time and money wasted.
Wines of South Africa, the non-profit international marketing arm of the industry, have come up with an ingenious solution. Spurred by 2010, and to enhance the foreign visitor experience (but with the clear spin-off of making our experience better too), they have launched Project Laduma â€“ the training of 2010 restaurant wine stewards by 2010.
Itâ€™s certainly ambitious, but what a great idea. Half of this number represents waiters and waitresses already in the industry and the other half will be a fresh crop drawn from the currently unemployed. Project Laduma is being launched this weekend and you can contribute by buying the Project Laduma wine.
The Laduma wine range has been selected through a blind tasting by the Cape Wine Makersâ€™ Guild and will be sold in restaurants and retail outlets across the country for a limited period at approximately R120 (retail) and R150 in restaurants. Proceeds of all the wine sales will contribute toward the SETA accredited training programme. A total of 17 500 cases will be available for sale, with the hope of raising R4, 5 million for Project Laduma.