Tag Archives: behind-the-scenes

Stocking the Cellar: The Story of Singita’s Wines II

April 08, 2013 - Did You Know?,Experience

Among the many factors involved in creating the best safari experience in Africa is the logistical challenge of sourcing and stocking the extensive wine cellars at each lodge and camp. In this behind-the-scenes story, we share the fascinating details of what it takes to put together a top-end wine list in such remote locations.

Wine at Singita

As you will have read previously, Singita Premier Wine is the department dedicated to sourcing and supplying wines for all the Singita properties. The wine list at each lodge offers an average of 180 different bottles, all of which need to be painstakingly selected, purchased, matured and distributed throughout South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. François Rautenbach is the talented man responsible for this process and has been involved with Singita Premier Wine for over a decade.

To assist in purchasing the best wines, the lodges document consumption patterns of guests, record every wine tasting ever hosted and every wine opened. François also tracks international wine trends and, of course, trusts his own palate and taste when it comes to sourcing new wines.

Wine at Singita

Recognised as one of South Africa’s most influential buyers of wine, Singita has an extensive selection of premium wines, including some of the country’s most sought-after private reserves and limited-release wines. Wines are matured under carefully managed conditions, which is why the lodges can offer the majority of their red wines at five years or older.

The wine cellar at Singita Boulders Lodge

Sourcing wines is an on-going job, and François and his team work directly with the producers, either making personal visits to the farms or tasting samples sent to them. The Nederburg Auction is attended annually with specific emphasis on purchasing rare sweet wines not available elsewhere. At the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction, unique wines with proven rarity and provenance are purchased, often with specific guests in mind.

Food and wine pairing

Singita Ebony Lodge and Singita Boulders Lodge in the Sabi Sand reserve were the first lodges to house an extensive wine cellar and boutique, and the wine culture established there remains the benchmark for Singita lodges throughout Africa.

Singita Sabi Sand has a large walk-in fridge which acts as the storage and distribution hub for the lodges in the Sabi Sand, Kruger National Park and Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. Complementing this is a 60-ton, exclusive-use maturation facility located at Delvera estate in Stellenbosch. Three tons of wine is transported monthly by means of temperature-controlled containers (known as reefers) from Stellenbosch to the refrigerated hub at Singita Sabi Sand. In 2008, a similar bulk fridge was built at Singita Grumeti to function as the East-African hub.

Francois Rautenbach

In order to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, a bulk monthly delivery schedule is in place to move the maximum amount of wine at a time. A 20-foot reefer is loaded with 12 600 bottles of wine in Stellenbosch before departing via Cape Town, Durban and on to Dar es Salaam, where the container is cleared through customs. Once cleared the bottles are packed into two refrigerated trucks and driven to Singita Grumeti – a journey of four to five days – where it is unloaded directly into the walk-in fridge. From there, bottles are progressively distributed to each lodge or camp depending on demand.

For more information or to order wine through Singita Premier Wine Direct (available to current, past and future Singita guests) please contact us at premierwine@singita.com. You can also read more about Singita’s wines on the blog.

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From Cellar to Sideboard: Wine at Singita

January 23, 2013 - Accommodation,Cuisine,Experience,Kruger National Park,Sabi Sand,Singita,Singita Grumeti,Singita Pamushana Lodge

Samp risotto served with white wine at Singita Kruger National Park

Attention to every detail of the Singita experience, including the pairing of food and wine, is just another way that we aim to delight our guests. Our team of wine procurers and sommeliers are consummate professionals in their field and have the enviable task of sourcing and managing hundreds of top-end wines for our highly discerning guests.

Singita Premier Wine is the department dedicated to sourcing and supplying wines for all the Singita properties, and has been in operation for more than a decade. It is headed up by François Rautenbach, who manages the selection, purchase and temperature-controlled maturation and distribution of each and every wine. He also oversees the service of the wines, from hosting informal wine tastings with guests, to managing an in-house sommelier apprenticeship program along with the managers at each lodge.

An evening wine tasting in the bush at Singita Sabi Sand

Each property shares a primary wine list, but it is tweaked with additional wines or older vintages to suit each lodge on the property. On average, a Singita wine list has in excess of 180 wines, many of them at least five years old. “In compiling our lists, we try to include not only unique wines but also lesser known producers to ensure a sense of adventure and newness,” says François.

Sommeliers are on hand at all the lodges, handpicked not only for their wine knowledge, personality and exposure to travel, but also for their love of the African bush. Over the years, many of Singita’s sommeliers have been qualified winemakers mentored by François to guide guests through several vineyards, vintages and cultivars to enhance their knowledge and appreciation of South African wines.

François Rautenbach

It was a logical step to establish Singita Premier Wine Direct, a unique guest service that makes South African wines available as personally selected consignments to take home or to be shipped door-to-door anywhere in the world.  Guests either choose to take their wine with them as carry-on baggage, using specially produced re-usable Singita Poly-bags, or it is sent as an export wine consignment. Exports account for a remarkable 30 percent of what Singita purchases.

“Singita Premier Wine Direct is available to current, past and future Singita guests, but usually comes into play when specific wines have been enjoyed in camp. Key to the service is developing a personal guest wine profile of wines enjoyed and purchased, so that we can offer future wine selections geared to specific preference,” explains François.

Expanding and tailor-making a world-class wine service across the collection of Singita lodges and camps is a constant challenge, but one which François relishes almost as much as mentoring his growing team of sommeliers.

The wine cellar at Singita Lebombo Lodge

For more information or to order wine through Singita Premier Wine Direct please contact us at premierwine@singita.com.

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Diary of an African Christmas: Decking the Halls

December 25, 2012 - Events,Experience,Kruger National Park,Lodges and Camps,Singita Lebombo Lodge

Our very own Christmas elf, Ludwig van Tonder, has been carefully documenting the festive preparations and celebrations at Singita Lebombo Lodge in the Kruger National Park over the past few weeks. Today he shares some photos of the last few decorations going up at the lodge, as well as a wonderful afternoon of cupcake decorating for the whole family. We hope that you enjoy these and we wish you and yours the very best for the festive season.

Christmas wreath at Singita Lebombo Lodge

One of the Christmas trees at Singita Lebombo Lodge

Christmas tree with our gifts to the guests from the kitchen An afternoon of cupcake decorating for the children

Gingerbread cookies made by the kitchen staff

Ludwig will be back next week with some photos of the activities from Christmas Day.


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Diary of an African Christmas: Stocking the Pantry

December 19, 2012 - Events,Experience,Kruger National Park,Lodges and Camps,Singita Lebombo Lodge

Preparations are underway in the kitchen at Singita Lebombo Lodge in the Kruger National Park as the team busily fills the larder with mouthwatering festive delights. We asked Ludwig von Tonder, our very own Singita Christmas elf, to tell us all about it.

Strawberries

There’s something about the bright red and green colour of strawberries that always reminds me of Christmas. And after the sun has ripened them to ruby perfection, December is the ideal month for making strawberry jam.

If you’re like me and need no excuse to indulge in something sweet, then Sally’s Seed Loaf with homemade strawberry jam is the perfect (almost) guilt-free treat. With the festive season in mind, we have taken the basic recipe and added some cranberries and spices to invoke the spirit of Christmas. Rooibos tea is used instead of water to celebrate our African heritage, while oats, wholewheat and organic rye flour and various seeds combine to make a delicious, fibre-rich loaf that is full of goodness.

Sally's Seed Loaf with homemade strawberry jam

Another essential Christmas treat is our homemade fruit mince pies. Generous helpings of raisins, currents and cranberries are cooked together with dark treacle sugar, orange and spices until soft and sticky. The fragrant mixture is then preserved and kept throughout December, always at the ready to be spooned into pastry cases, baked, and showered with icing sugar. These white, powdery mounds filled with their sweet treats remind us that even in Africa we can have some snow for Christmas.

Making fruit mince pies

After weeks of preparation, I’m now gratified to see our well-stocked pantry that is bursting with homemade items. Jars of strawberry jam, chocolate chip cookies, macadamia nut rusks, fruit-mince at the ready and our fruitcakes silently awaiting December 25th, only being opened every few days to receive a regular shot of brandy. The days are getting longer and increasingly hotter as we count down to Christmas Day; the excitement building all the while.

Putting out the lanterns

The candlelit boma

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Diary of an African Christmas: Dusting the Chandelier

December 12, 2012 - Events,Experience,Kruger National Park,Lodges and Camps,Singita Lebombo Lodge

For many of our guests, especially those from the Northern Hemisphere, the idea of a warm, sunny Christmas is rather a novelty. And although we don’t have snowflakes and fir trees, the charm of spending this special day in the African bush is undeniable. We asked Ludwig von Tonder, our very own Christmas elf at Singita Lebombo Lodge in the Kruger National Park, to take us through the lodge’s preparations leading up to the big day.

Christmas decorations

As I self-consciously hum Boney M’s White Christmas to get into the spirit of things, I realize that even here, among the thorn trees and rolling grasslands that never see the snow, there is a sense of timeless tradition in our African Christmas.

Beaded Christmas decorations

We prepare for the much-anticipated celebrations of December 25th by polishing the ornaments, dusting the chandeliers and hanging festive decorations. Fruitcakes are being assembled and bejewelled with fresh cherries, the first gift of the season. The fruit is doused with brandy and then used to stud the richly spiced cake which will serve as a delicious tea-time treat well into the new year.

Even here in the relative isolation of the African bush, nature joins in the party by amazing us with the built-in Christmas decorations of the nearby thorn trees. It’s as if the local flora is equally excited for the festive season’s kick-off.

The next few weeks will be filled with the celebration of Christmas traditions from all over the world, as we stockpile the pantries and adorn the lodge with glittering reminders of the spirit of good cheer. Join us throughout December as we share the food, decor and inspiration behind Singita’s uniquely African Christmas.

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