Tag Archives: wine cellars

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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Singita Premier Wine’s Winter Escapades

August 17, 2011 - Cuisine,Events,Experience,Sabi Sand

Singita is recognised as one of South Africa’s most influential buyers of wine, with an extensive cellar showcasing a premium selection of wines, including some of the country’s most sought-after private reserves and limited release wines.  François Rautenbach heads up Singita Premier Wine, managing the selection, purchase, storage, and service of the wines at Singita lodges, in addition to managing Singita Premier Wine Direct which allows guests to order wines to be shipped home at the end of their safari.  As a buyer of premiers wines Francois spends time at some of South Africa’s finest wine estates – we’ve asked him to share some of his experiences as he scouts out the best labels for Singita’s cellars.

(Singita Premier Wine Boutique – Singita Sabi Sand)

Deep into mid-winter in Southern Africa there is a dramatic change in the bush colouring from verdant dense greens to the straw-browns of the dry season.  Extended animal movements abound as they search for the last vestiges of green fodder and the elusive pools of fresh water.

Having been requested to speak at the inaugural Winebiz Conference on wine marketing and sales, I travelled once again to the wintery Winelands.   A great time to be hosting such an event in the Cape as the winemakers use the cooler wet days to finalise their blends and bottle those vintage wines that have been slumbering, developing magnificently in barrel.  The wine marketers grab onto these new and exciting developments and releases to enhance the attraction of their portfolios.

In this regard it may seem odd that a ‘bush wine specialist’ was requested to speak on the topic ‘Put your best foot forward – optimising cellar door experiences’.  However with the many years of hosting thought-provoking and informative wine tastings in the Singita Cellars not to mention the wonderful success of the Premier Wine Boutique as an added-value home of wine, information and passion, it suddenly seemed quite possible that we could add real value and insight into the Wine Farm’s visitor experience.

On a cool, bright and sunny day the conference turned out to be both stimulating and informative and well worth attending even as a delegate let alone as a speaker.

Further to the conference I received an impromptu invitation to Ken Forrester Vineyards nestled in the foothills of the Stellenbosch – Helderberg Ridge mountains for a vertical presentation of the now 10 year production of the famed single-vineyard ‘FMC’.  Now that sounded like an absolutely rare and unique opportunity.  An exciting prospect as I departed for the farm enthralled by a magnificent sunset of pink and orange hues.

Ken a renowned, lifelong restaurateur realised his dream of wine making when he purchased a small run-down farm with his family. Realising that not only was Chenin Blanc the wine style that offered South Africa it’s greatest potential for renown but that this newly acquired farm hosted one of the unique ‘heritage’ blocks of old dry-land bush vine Chenin planted in 1967 (Mmm, my own lifelong wine endeavours – sharing the same birth date!).  Ken set about a tireless journey to revitalise the vineyard and image of this historical grape.

Roping in Martin Meinert, winemaker and blender extraordinaire and long time restaurant partner into this new project they tackled the 1998 & ’99 vintages with gusto but with little success.  Even greater care and attention ensued with each bush vine pruned back to one bud which captured the entire root system’s energy into a couple of bunches but resulted in a yield of less than 1 ton of grapes per acre.  Wow – the resulting first release 2000 vintage showed ground-breaking concentration yet remained balanced and enthralling!

With a single long, farm-style table at centre stage in the tasting room sandwiched between small and jam-packed barrel maturation and fermentation rooms the tableau of ten spaces set with five large glasses each raised the expectations even further for an individual experience. Personally pouring each vintage Ken held us enraptured with tales of the wine’s development, the original description of the FMC’s acronym (now know in political correctness as the Forrester-Meinert Chenin) and the attention given to each of the multiple hand harvests completed through the vineyard to ensure perfectly even ripeness throughout the bunches of grapes used to fill each individual 400 litre Loire Valley French oak barrels.

Presented with the youthful, distinctly green tinged 2009 vintage redolent with stewed apple and ruby grapefruit on the nose we set off on a journey through the last decade.  What concentration displayed by this emerging teenage wine with promise of supreme pleasure in years to come.

Quickly followed on by an enticingly approachable 2008, a deep yellow in colour, bouquet and stone fruit inspired palate already offering tremendous pleasure.

Next the powerful 2007 with a deep golden yellow hue fit for an artist’s brush. An entry of delicate herbal ‘Garrigue’ or Cape Floral notes underpinned by distinctive almond and marzipan leading to a riveting flavour demanding rich food or further maturation time.

Just when we thought we had seen the spectrum, the 2006 emerged to enthral with dainty intensity, freshness and elegance.  The lightest coloured and most superbly balanced – what difficulty to not consume in one draft.

Finally the 2001 flowed into it’s receptacle to offer complete integration with the richness of matured marmalade upfront and the tight and lengthy finish to follow – supreme now yet with a portent to further years of pleasure to come.

As the ‘Cape Doctor’ South-Easter started blowing, rattling doors and windows we could ruminate over the first decade of a now internationally iconic wine as we savoured giant tempura prawns dipped in hoisin sauce, crisp pork belly and artisinal cheeses subtly proving that the food matching versatility of Chenin Blanc is unsurpassed.

Nodding off to sleep some time later I looked forward to the development of Singita Premier Wine’s own stocks in maturation and to the next decade of a developing heritage.

Find out more information about Singita Premier Wine on Singita’s website – or contact us directly at premierwine@singita.com.

Happy imbibing,

François

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