Wine List Awards

The SAWi Fine Wine List Portfolio Collection ‘RestauranteurVin Laureates’

‘An excellent wine list helps make for a great restaurant’
Furthering its footprint in the pursuit of excellence in fine wine offerings, SAWi has now embarked on a course to endorse wine lists of fine dining restaurants that prove distinctive in terms of fine wine presentations. This is a campaign SAWi was keen to undertake in the pursuit of a new impression for restaurant wine list standards. Otherwise, the industry will stay static in terms of wine list presentations with patrons often left at a loss as to which wine choices to make. After all, fine wine doesn’t come cheap. As a result, people who take particular pleasure in fine food and wine and who most probably have to dig deep into their pockets should not struggle with wine list presentations that accompany fine food, especially the more discerned wine lover.

In fact, while the emphasis at top restaurants is normally placed on culinary experience, the state of accompanied wine lists is more often than not a real shortcoming. Therefore, a great restaurant should be one that, whatever its concept, conveys its sensibility not only through food but wine too, to make the latter an essential part of a fine dining experience. It should be a delightful experience while at the same time bolstering the palate preferences of diners. That is why there can be no such thing as a ‘just-ok’ fine wine list. Most such wine lists are generally stale and not adventurous at all.

Many wine lists, even more astonishing, some that have received awards, are very similar with normally only a simple listing of wines accompanied by the usual lengthy wine descriptions but very little else. It seldom goes beyond the food offering, irrespective of what patrons actually find interesting to know before selecting any particular wines. Therefore, SAWi aims to accredit restaurants that have fine wines central to its focus to afford a discerning beverage experience with fine food, naturally also accompanied by expected standards of wine service. As such, criteria were designed from a patron’s point of view.

Hopefully, through this initiative, high-end establishments would in future encourage wine lovers to get out of their comfort zones by not only trying something new but, experiencing different wine cultivars anew with more focus on particular wine styles too.
These awards are also aimed to distinguish such establishments in terms of a global uniqueness. Endorsement will come through official accreditation, not only for wine lists depicting wines from the SAWi ‘Grand Wines Collection’ but, specifically in complementing the concept of excellence in wine offerings. As such, the range of this award will be widened to ensure that many more expressions and variations on the wine list would be rewarded.

Results are based on an index scoring outcome out of 100 points. A Platinum accreditation will represent 80+ and Grand Gold 75 to 80 points. This will be acknowledged for the respective National, Provincial and Regional categories of Hotel, City, Suburban and Country Restaurant Wine Lists. Regrettably, while the field of fine dining restaurants exceeds 350 country-wide, SAWi sees this as work in progress as only 5% have achieved current honours. It is hoped that in future, many more wine lists would obtain accreditation as part of the SAWi Fine Wine List Portfolio Collection’. The ultimate idea is to convert fine wine lists into fine wine guides, for which there are only a handful of candidates at present.

The RestauranteurVin Fine Wine List Portfolio Collection

  • Aubergine, Cape Town
  • Belhazar, Cape Town
  • Bietangs Cave, Hermanus
  • Café del Sol Parkhurst & Randburg
  • Feast @ De Oude Kraal, OFS
  • Fiamma Grill, Ballito KZN
  • Kambaku Lodge, Mapumalanga
  • Karibu, Cape Waterfront
  • Kream Brooklyn, Pretoria
  • Le’Thaba @ Fairview Hotel, Tzaneen
  • Leeu Marigold Franshhoek
  • Leeu The Dining Room Franshhoek
  • Saskia, Polokwane
  • Pride of India, Waterkloof
  • Zest, Mbombela

Comment on Inaugural Achievements

First of all, the numbers. Of the 359 restaurants identified to potentially qualify as fine dining establishments, 109 (30%) wine lists do not live up to expectations and are mostly just a mere list of wines. Given that 18% represent fine dining establishments on wine estates which will be adjudicated separately, it left a balance of 185 to consider.

Only 74 wine lists (21% out of the total) did qualify to become part of the Portfolio Collection, with 18 of those found to be on the brink of success. Another 111 (31) establishments which were invited to submit information to SAWi, were uncertain about this and whilst their wine lists could not be found on their websites, it is difficult to say how many of these may have qualified.

Potentially only another 33 if based on the above trend. It could have swelled the final qualifying restaurants to a total of about 107. But this quest is on-going.

As was expected, the majority of fine wine establishments are located in suburban areas such as in Sandton and surrounds in Johannesburg, Centurion, Waterkloof and Brooklyn in Pretoria, Constantia and Kloofnek in Cape Town, Kloof in Durban and Summerstrand in Port Elizabeth.

The following group that performed well are restaurants in outlying Metropolitan areas, especially Umhlanga and Ballito in Kwazulu Natal, then Jeffries Bay and Plettenberg Bay in the Eastern Cape and Paarl, Stellenbosch, Franshhoek and Hermanus in the Western Cape, with some in the Southern Cape too. Further good news is that some others were identified in areas as far away as Phalaborwa and Polokwane in Limpopo and Mbombela in Mpumalanga.

Criteria focussed on basic top wine list requirements as set out by SAWi, ease of navigation, the extent of the wine offering, its presentation and wine service aspects, wine-descriptors (the main focus) plus some additional bonus points.

As for top achievers, the difference between the top 6 was a mere 1.4 points. Aubergine led the A la Cart section. Some wine lists, like that of Saskia and Bietang’s Cove are worth special mentioning too due to its beautiful illustrations. SAWi may in future consider further categorisation.

In the end, while the overall number of taken up in the Portfolio Collection so far is still low, it should also be seen against the SAWi aim to show that this goes far beyond dishing out certificates willy-nilly but, to build towards a new footprint standard for fine dining wine lists in South Africa.