Newsletter from Pietman Retief - May 2012

I'm afraid that this newsletter is somewhat overdue, but times are indeed very exciting, not only in the wine industry but also in the travel industry, and most definitely in and around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. As councillor responsible, amongst other portfolios, for tourism I am able to report on interesting and exciting developments throughout the area.

Let us start with Stellenbosch. It has given me great pleasure to have become a part of a new enterprise called Stellenbosch 360, which is much more than just promoting tourism. For those of you living in distant countries it I can just explain that it involves something which keeps all of us busy nowadays-building a new nation. In one sentence, how we can develop a process of social engineering so that everyone (360 degrees) in our country can reap the benefit of what we are doing. So, please come and see us again so that you too can help us achieve this essential process.

The harvest and thereafter

I can't help but to add a photo of the flowers of Namaqualand - a spectacle that can be seen every year in an area some 3 hours drive from Stellenbosch. Absolutely amazing.

Every year's wine harvest is an event to be looked forward to and that of 2012 which finished some few weeks ago was no exception. The rain stayed away long enough, the quality was excellent, and the quantity sufficient although down in certain areas. All in all, an excellent harvest caused a lot of excitement and in a few years' time the vintage of 2012 will be appreciated. The old saying in the Cape is that the winter rains start at Easter, it doesn't matter when Easter happens to be in the calendar. This year was a typical example with a really wet weekend at the very end of the harvesting. But, we are on track for the next vintage.

Fun in the Winelands

And of course to coincide with the harvesting - and to celebrate 'all is safely gathered in' - there are all the fun events associated with it and the end of the summer season. These popular occasions continue for the rest of the year. It is becoming noticeable that more and more tourists are planning their holidays to fit in with some of the more popular festivals.

The Paarl Round the Rock Wine festival, The Wellington Wine Harvest Festival, and Oesfees at Solms Delta were some that brought many visitors to our vicinity. The Solms Delta drew some 7000 people who were entertained by the local Soet Stemme (Sweet voices) choir, and the Lang Broeke (Long Pants) male choir, as well as the brass band which is known for its regular performances throughout the winelands. A special highlight of the season is always the Cape Philharmonic's wonderful Starlight Classics concert which attracts an audience of some 8000 people at Vergenoegd, the beautiful estate in Somerset West.

Other attractions include ongoing art exhibition openings on various wine estates, a rare plant auction on Rustenberg, a new restaurant at Vergelegen, the development of an incredible garden at Babylonstoren and the usual boere braais (barbeques) at places like Middelvlei. I could carry on about the historical events being staged and musical festivals taking place. Those of you that have spent a day with me would remember that I often accentuate the diversity of wine which can be so easily and positively linked to all the pleasurable things in life. And it does happen here with us.

For the sports enthusiasts, a record 35 000 bikers took part in the Argus Cycling race, with entries from around the globe, as well as over 24 000 runners in the Two Oceans marathon, which attracts local enthusiasts of all ages - the oldest was 94! There has been much concentration on creating many hiking and cycling trails for those who want a more energetic component to their holiday.

And the fun future---?

Interestingly enough, Stellenbosch won't be holding its wine festival this year. This is to prepare for 2013 when the festival will take to the streets of historic Stellenbosch. But there is more than enough to take its place. Franschhoek is wonderful with all its festivals, even celebrating Bastille Day on the 14th July when the town takes on the blue, white and red of France.

Undoubtedly, the most exciting event in the Winelands this year will be Cape Wine, hosted by Wines of South Africa, a three day trade exhibition which will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 25th - 27th September. Delegates from Europe, UK, America and Africa have already booked, and the contingent expected from the east is encouraging.

Guests over the past few months

A visit with a difference was the Hatz family, who landed in my lap through daughter Isabelle who studies at the local University in Stellenbosch as an exchange student, and were good enough to bring her parents Gabrielle and Thomas and brother Constantine along to see where she is going to spend her time till July. They were very interested in the campus and all the drinking spots of the students!! It sounded as if I became the god father of Isabelle!! Well known writer and former newspaper editor Sir Max Hastings visited South Africa in February of this year. Along with his wife Penelope they enjoyed a wonderful day out with Pietman and later commented ‘Thank you for the splendid tour you gave us which proved to be one of the highlights of our holiday. I took home a case of La Motte’s shiraz after tasting it with you! I shall be recommending you to everybody coming to the Winelands.’
The Hancock family was a delightful bunch who enjoyed everything that I cooked up for them. Grandparents Colin and Pamela, parents Mark and Heather, and the card playing kids Harry and Archie. Try and work out who is whom. Heather was nice enough to write later saying; We all felt that out day with you was a real highlight of the trip. Hugo and Jane Haddon-Grant was very interested in all the history tales I dished up, and the art exhibition at La Provence.

Our recently introduced Captivating Cape Town and the Peninsula tour has attracted attention on the website and is serving as an ideal introduction to overseas visitors arriving in Cape Town. As with the winelands tour guests are collected from their hotels and returned at the end of the day. It serves to give a comprehensive day both in Cape Town and in many well known destinations in and around the city and peninsula. The cost is R1,850 less commission for recognised tour companies. There is also a 10% discount for clients booking both days in the winelands and city.

This VIP status tour has an itinerary that includes Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, the Houses of Parliament in central Cape Town and Simonstown the naval base. Chapmans Peak, Camps Bay and the Waterfront are also featured as well as sports complexes including the soccer stadium "Bedpan" built for the 2010 football world cup. A full itinerary is available and reservations can be made with the bookings office on 00 27 21 7617687 or by email at Commission is payable to tour operators and the cost per person is R1,850.


Clients requesting holiday planning assistance will be referred to the most suitable tour operator who may be able to provide help with hotels and travel details within South Africa.


All bookings should be made with Susan Alexander in the Reservations department tel +27 (0)21 761 7687 or cell +27 (0) 722 719072, email

For clients booking both tours there is a reduction of 10%


Recognised tour operators in the UK and Europe are invited to send South African planning staff visiting South Africa for a one day 'See the Winelands' with Pietman. Enquiries may be made with the reservations department regarding available dates.


Arrangements have been made to include other European languages with our tours. As well as English, Afrikaans and Dutch, French has been added recently.


Like most cities at the height of the summer season Cape Town suffers from too much traffic. There are many fantastic hotels and country houses in and around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek and we suggest that those wanting to tour the Winelands stay in the area. Those planning a Captivating Cape Town tour will perhaps find it more convenient to avoid booking in the Camps Bay and Clifton areas which tend to become very congested.