SA wines are still in demand in the UK. This is the tasting room at Meerlust. Image:

SA wine in the UK: Building on the magical cellar-door experience

There’s nothing more special than enjoying a wine where it was produced. Here’s how UK buyers can relive the experience.


SA wines are still in demand in the UK. This is the tasting room at Meerlust. Image:

Unlike a restaurant, where the chef has the opportunity to personally interact with every one of his or her customers, a winemaker only has such an opportunity when people visit the cellar. And, in many cases, cellar-door sales only make for a small fraction of the total market for that winery.

For the wine lover, it’s true few things can triumph tasting a wine where it was made and so, for the winery involved, this is the most important customer to retain. 

No time or effort should have been spared in making the cellar-door experience something memorable and special. And yet, more often than not, and especially in the case of overseas visitors, it is unlikely these visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy those same wines again. 

Recreating cellar-door experience in the UK

Image Supplied

South African wine specialist Pippa Woods, one of the savviest of UK importers, saw this as a good opportunity to build on the relationship wineries had created here in South Africa by providing a platform for UK visitors to enjoy some of the same wines back home that they had tasted during their visit to South Africa.

And so began discussions with long-standing friend and respected wine-man, Charles Withington, and the concept was developed. 

The vision was to partner with those wineries that not only made memorable wines, but had memorable wineries to visit. The wineries in question also had to have world-class service levels.

On the UK side, of course, there had to be an equally high standard of service. Indeed, the platform had to have that kind of personal interaction so the wine lover would feel as if they were dealing with a UK extension of the winery itself. 

Clever platform to promote SA’s top wineries

Kanonkop in Stellenbosch… imagine the memories you could make here. Sadly UK visitors are unlikely to support SA’s top wineries in person for some time. Image: Adobe Stock

This could only be achieved by working closely with the relevant wineries and was something that a regular online website could not achieve.

The concept was very well received by all in the chain – from grape to glass, as it were. The wineries involved were delighted to have a way of getting their wines swiftly and efficiently to that very special group of customers.

The UK importers of the relevant wines were also delighted in that, with absolutely no effort on their part, the sales of their product was being increased.

UK buyers relive cellar memories and access SA’s best wine

Last but by no means least, the customers were probably happiest of all.

Not only could they revisit some of those special memories made at the cellar through the wine — literally within days of their order — but they could also access what is probably the best selection of top-end South African wines in the UK.

Why SA’s wineries need visitors now

Back to the wineries in South Africa. The good news is that, after months of incredibly difficult trading conditions under the national coronavirus lockdown, they will finally now be allowed to be open throughout the week and at weekends.

This is essential if these wineries are to receive much-needed physical visitors, especially considering that so much of the Western Cape economy is dependent on wine tourism.  

Failing a visit, here’s how UK wine lovers can help

The sad and bad news, though, is that Western Cape wineries will probably be about 90% down on UK visitor numbers — and this is potentially devastating for the industry.

The wineries realise that their UK visitors would be here if they could. But until that becomes a reality — and this might only be some time in 2021 — they are urging wine lovers in the UK to considering some of the best South African wines on offer for Christmas and New Year. 

Check out the selection of featured South African estates here.