Newsletter from Pietman Retief - May 2014

Being very interested in local history, I am fortunate enough to be invited to some very special events. The cannon, discovered halfway up a hill in Durbanville anchoring a fence, was originally placed along with several others, including the one at Kanonkop to pass on urgent messages to the local people during the Dutch time in the Cape. Now, lovingly restored, it was ceremoniously fired for the first time recently for several hundred years.

Another summer has gone, another harvest has gone, and another tourist season has unfortunately also gone.

It is a pity, as both autumn and winter in the Western Cape are such lovely seasons. Yes, it does rain in the Cape, but in between the showery days, and more than often than you imagine, you then get the days I can only describe as champagne.

The best wine news we have is that Stellenbosch Wine Routes has been judged The Best Promotional Body at the 2014 Wine Tourism Awards by Drinks International, the well known and reputable wine magazine. This was the result of Stellenbosch Wine Routes receiving credit for its innovative tourism initiatives to market the area and its numerous activities.

This follows closely onto the introduction of the dynamic 2014 wine tourism marketing campaign by Stellenbosch Experience, arranged by Stellenbosch Wine Routes and the Stellenbosch Tourism marketing body called Stellenbosch 360.

As part of the campaign the Wine Routes also started an interactive blog called StellenBlog, which gives you stories on the winelands on an ongoing daily basis, concentrating to a large extent on the social media.


The Weibull family from Sweden have been annual visitors to the Cape since 2005. This year, Mats, Lise-Lotte and their daughter Johanna were based at Delaire Graff and spent a busy day with Pietman enjoying some of the newer estates. The tour was booked for them by Livingstone Safaris in Cape Town. Pietman with Karine Goulet-Retif in front of the Huguenot memorial in Franschhoek. While Pietman is a direct descendent of Francois Retif who arrived in the Cape in 1688, Karine's ancestor, Samuel stayed behind in Blois in the Loire valley to look after the family interests. Karine recently visited Stellenbosch as part of a delegation. The surname was changed to Retief after they arrived in the Cape.
The way it is done in Stellenbosch. After the guests have gone the dogs go to the kitchen window for some leftovers. This is Merlot and the window is on the estate Middelvlei known for its traditional barbeque. Timothy Hailes and Kurt Edwards had a great day out with Pietman at the end of March. Here they enjoy the late summer sunshine at Rustenburg.

I was again fortunate to host a number of really interesting visitors who inspired me to come up with some informative days. I always rate my success by the fun and enjoyment that I get from the interaction with my guests. As those who have spent time with me know, I adapt each day out to fit in with their specific interests.

Alderman Timothy Hailes of the City of London for instance showed an interest in local administration and with my being a Councillor of Stellenbosch we had a lot to share. Although Tim aspires to become the Lord Mayor of the City of London in the near future I have no desire to become the mayor of Stellenbosch! That would simply take too much time and I wouldn't be able to take my tours.

Mats and Lise-Lotte Weibull and daughter Johanna handed me another challenge. They have visited Cape Town for several years with regular trips to the wine lands of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek so I had to improvise a bit, which was a satisfying test for me.

Brian and Margaret Roper, from beautiful Bath, are in the bathroom design business and, as with several other visitors, were also interested in the shacks on the Cape Flats. Not one of the prettiest aspects of the Cape, but one of the most serious challenges for the local administration which I believe is being successfully managed.

Art and Karen Levine provided a fascinating test in that she was the wine fundi, while he was more interested in history and quizzed me on my knowledge of the Jews in South Africa, so we ended the day in the Jewish Museum in Cape Town. This was a pleasure for me as I have always been interested in the role the Jews have played in our country's history. She also challenged me to come up with the best Chenin, the best Pinotage and the best Cabernet in South Africa. I was successful, at least according to my taste, but I won't tell you what they were - you must come and find that out for yourself!

Andrew Clarke, a London barrister, tested me by asking for Malbec, a varietal which was hard to find in Stellenbosch. I did find it but was surprised how scarce it is. We spoke a lot about politics, but especially the interesting court cases that are currently taking place in this country.


The next very exciting event for us here is the election on May 7. It will be interesting to see how the ANC will handle the onslaught of bad publicity it has faced over the last few weeks. Without doubt, South Africa remains one of the most interesting countries in the world. So, come over and see us: be entranced by our awesome scenery and delighted with our fantastic hospitality and wines.