Which safari operator will buy your personal choice of wine just for you?
Repeat guests of Singita's sensational safari lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, have their taste in wine taken seriously. To the point that Singita's wine buyer will bid for guests' favourites at the Cape Winemakers Guild auction each year.
It will then be transported from Cape Town all across Africa to the lodges where the guest will be staying.
Big Boys of the Auction Room
In comparison to Tsogo Sun Hotels, with 90 hotels across Africa, Singita is small fry in the hospitality industry, but when it comes to buying wine they Rock ‘n Roll with the big boys. At number 4 out of the Top 10 Buyers at the famous Nederburg Auction (2015), Singita secured 5.6% of the auction wines (80 cases). Prices went a bit crazy, with dry whites more than double in price per litre from the previous year. Reds, which make up over half the wine consumed in Singita lodges, increased similarly.
Do People Drink More Than Usual on Safari?
An astounding 50,000 bottles of wine are consumed at Singita lodges per year with wine consumption having doubled across Singita’s 12 lodges over the past two years! This isn’t because people are binge drinking while on safari, it’s because Singita has almost doubled their average occupancy. So, the biggest challenge is keeping up with demand.
How Do they Move this Much Wine?
Head of Singita Wine since 2000, François Rautenbach manages the selection, acquisition, maturation and distribution for each lodge. His choices have turned guests from all corners of the globe into ambassadors for South African wine, but how does he get the wine to all corners of southern and east Africa?
Three tons of wine is transported monthly in temperature-controlled containers to a bulk fridge at Singita Sabi Sand bordering Kruger National Park in South Africa. From here it’s taken to neighbouring Ebony and Boulders lodges, and just a little further into Kruger Park to Lebombo and Sweni lodges. It’s then a cross-border road journey to Singita Paumushana in Zimbabwe. To supply the Tanzanian lodges, about 12,600 bottles travel by ship from Cape Town to Durban and on to Dar es Salaam. Then it’s a four or five day drive in two refrigerated trucks to Singita Grumeti in the Serengeti. Needless to say, the wine needs a little time to settle after its cross-continent expedition.
Sommelier Goes Bush
Most Singita wine lists have in excess of 180 different wines. At lodges sleeping just 20 to 30 people, this is a selection above and beyond expectation. Never fear, a Singita Sommelier is near. They are handpicked for their wine knowledge, personality and love of the African bush (mandatory when your job is in the middle of nowhere!), and it’s their task to guide guests in choosing just the right wine for the occasion. This could be my dream job!
When you next happen to be sipping a sundown glass of wine during your game drive in the middle of the Serengeti, or perching on a lookout rock scanning the lowveld of Kruger National Park, spare a thought to what went in to painstakingly selecting, bidding for, maturing, bottling and delivering that splendid example of South African wine to your remote location.
Where’s the coolest place in Africa you’ve sipped a glass of wine?
Originally published 2016.