Yesterday lunch hosted by Singita Game Reserves at fellow Relais & Chateaux member Ellerman House in Bantry Bay. The object of the exercise? To showcase the Singita wine cellar, arguably the best stock of modern-era South African wine anywhere.
The menu as follows: steamed crab and ginger dumpling in miso broth with Waterford Library Collection Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2007; Cederberg Five Generations Chenin Blanc 2007 with West Coast Crayfish; De Trafford Chenin Blanc 2007 with ballantine of free-range chicken; rooibos tea smoked springbok with Sequillo 2003; field mushroom dusted beef fillet with Vergelegen 1999 and vanilla and almond soufflé with Klein Constantia Rhine Riesling Noble Late Harvest 2006.
Some fascinating wines, the two examples of Chenin Blanc for instance providing a wonderful contrast in styles, the Cederberg showing pure, concentrated fruit versus the De Trafford’s more secondary leesy character. As François Rautenbach, who heads up Singita’s wine programme said, “I don’t expect guests to like everything equally. If you want context, we’ve got it. That’s the beauty of an eclectic wine list”.
Just how much wine does Singita carry? There’s some 25 000 bottles stocked across the Sabi Sand lodges, 5 000 bottles across the Kruger National Park lodges, 4 000 bottles at the lodge in Zimbabwe while 12 000 bottles are sent annually to Singita’s operations in Tanzania. Finally, there’s some 60 tons of wine in temperature-controlled storage at a facility in Stellenbosch (given 17.5 kg per 12-bottle case, that’s over 3 400 cases).
“We wanted to match a world-class conservation and wildlife experience with a world-class hospitality experience,” says Singita owner Luke Bailes. Wine, it turns out, has been a key part of achieving this.