‘100 Women, 100 Wines’ “frivolous, patronising joke”, wasted tourism spend!


We have previously written about Cape Town Tourism embracing the ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ competition, promoting it actively, and listing it in its ‘Strategic Plan’ as a means to ‘stimulate domestic tourism demand’.   The competition brought 100 women to the V&A Hotel in the Cape Town Waterfront on Saturday for one day, hardly a major boost to domestic tourism, especially as a number of the participants were from the Cape anyway! The wine industry has slated the event as ‘frivolous’, ‘patronising’, and a ‘joke’!

Sceptical as I tend to be when it comes to the marketing activities of Cape Town Tourism, I checked what information was available via Google, as we have not received information about this event as members of Cape Town Tourism.  Not much was written about the competition – only two blogposts by organiser Clare “Mack” McKeon-McLoughlin (why does she not use her real surname?) of Spill Blog, a media release and two website posts by Cape Town Tourism, and three participant blogposts.   Sponsors of the competition were TOPS by Spar, Newmark Hotels (V&A Hotel), Destiny magazine (with a circulation of 26128 ‘black diamonds’), and Cape Town Tourism. The aim of the competition was to generate “South Africa’s Best 100 Wines” list, a ludicrous claim made by Cape Town Tourism in its media release.

The competition premise was that 80% of women buy wines in supermarkets, thus making the brand decision, which is largely made on the basis of word of mouth recommendation by friends.  On the basis of this statistic, Ms McKeon-McLoughlin devised a competition whereby 50 women could enter, by motivating by e-mail why they and a friend should be invited to be a ‘judge’ in a wine competition “where you choose and pick the wines that you prefer, wines that suit your palate and mood, and that you would be more than happy to recommend to a friend”. The ‘judging’ took place at the V&A Hotel in the Waterfront, with participants having been flown to Cape Town (if not from the Cape); attending a lunch, a cocktail party, and a gala dinner; participating in the ‘judging’; and spending the night in the V&A Hotel.  About 30 % of the group of hundred women were from Cape Town and the Winelands, judging from Twitter. Cape Town Tourism refused to confirm the geographic breakdown.

The patronising media release written by Cape Town Tourism stated that ‘this event will see women from different backgrounds being empowered as opinion leaders in the field of wine, and will set in motion the debunking of the myth that this right is reserved for the connoisseurs and the ‘bourgeois” (who writes stuff like this?!).  Their website post also stated that the participants reflected the South African demographic profile, but the ‘black diamonds’ dominated.  Cape Town Tourism appears to have forgotten that this country has four ‘demographics’, and not just two, as is visible from their delegate photograph. Categories in which wines were selected are ‘Girls Night Out’, ‘Celebration’, ‘Sunday Lunch’, ‘Braai drinking’, ‘The in-laws are coming’, The Big date – romance is in the air’, ‘Long lunch’, ‘Mid-week easy drinking’, Posh Present, ‘Baby it’s cold outside, ‘Bubbly’, and ‘Kiss and Make Up’.  Ten wines were allocated per each of the ten categories, hardly a ‘judging’, and more of a classification of the 100 wines, information not provided as to how the original list of 100 was selected!  The Cape Town Tourism media release quoted its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold as follows: “The innovation of food and wine is an integral part of what makes Cape Town an inspirational city.  We are looking forward to welcoming 100 women from across South Africa to Cape Town, and sharing our best wines and gourmet offerings with them.  Winter is the perfect time to explore our wine culture and our partnership with 100 Women 100 Wines demonstrates our commitment to unlocking Cape Town’s superb winter offering to the domestic market. We look forward to celebrating this as an annual event”! We do not believe that the event met the stated goal at all, as only the food of one hotel was experienced by the delegates, and mainly non-Cape Town wines were ‘judged’!

We asked Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold two questions about her organisation’s involvement in the event: what would its benefit be for domestic tourism to Cape Town, and how much did Cape Town Tourism pay for sponsoring the event.  This is the rude response we received on Twitter to our e-mails from Mrs Helmbold (she has not replied to our e-mails about the event):” For info on role in #100women event follow @CapeTownTourism‘s tweets. Event fund = R20 000″.

We question Cape Town Tourism’s sponsorship of the event, which will have gone to the organisers.  If Cape Town Tourism pays R20 000 for each of the 70 local and international events (we did not know that there are so many events in Cape Town in a year) it claims to support, it would be paying a precious R1,4 million, which it could use to greater benefit to attract more tourists to Cape Town by means of fewer, more fundamental events.  It is unheard of for a tourism bureau to pay a sponsorship fee, it being usual for them to just endorse an event, to give it credibility.  One wonders how Cape Town Tourism could have seen so much benefit in the event that they paid for it, and had the time to handle the (poor) publicity for it! It is clear that Cape Town Tourism has little knowledge of the wine industry, and blindly endorsed an event without credibility in the wine industry, and without any tourism benefit.  No local media (radio or newspaper) covered the event.

Mrs Helmbold did not attend the event at all, spending the weekend in Pringle Bay, and Cape Town Tourism’s PR Manager Skye Grove appears to have only popped in at the sponsored event. However, Mrs Helmbold was at great pains to Tweet about the event on Saturday, overstating the ‘benefits’ of the event for tourism to Cape Town as follows:

#100women is supported by @CapeTownTourism as part of focus on building winter brand, food/wine tourism and domestic tourism”

*   “#100women is 1 of many good examples of how partnerships can be used to accomplish much through events without investing a lot of money”.

*   “#100women 100 wines event is 1 of more than 70 events supported by @CapeTownTourism and 1 of earmarked domestic tourism events of year”.

Cape Town Tourism Tweeted ‘comments’ from delegates about how good they felt about being in Cape Town, but these were prescheduled via Tweetdeck, and do not appear to have been ‘live’ comments from delegates, making one question their credibility. In its website post at the conclusion of the event, Cape Town Tourism wrote ‘testimonial’ comments about Cape Town, quoting senior executives who apparently had never been to Cape Town before.   Some ‘justification’ Tweets were sent by them during the weekend event:

*   #100women 100 wines event proving that South African women love their friends, their wine, their food…. and Cape Town” (no delegate Tweets proved this!)

* City Press & Sunday Times at #100women event – this is how we do business. Unlocking CapeTown’s stories through national & int (sic) media” (City Press sent only a Trainee Journalist, and the Sunday Times was represented by their wine writer Neil Pendock, who in fact was one of the organisers!  There were no international media representatives).

*   We are loving the vibe at #100women 100wines. Women from all over SA falling in love with the Mother City and our food and wine offering” (not supported by delegate Tweets)

Proud partners with @NewmarkHotels, @1time_Airline & Tops at Spar of #100women100 wines. All about telling CapeTown’s food & wine stories” (no such ‘stories’ have been seen in the media!).

Pendock is known to be a good friend of Mrs McKeon-McLoughlin, and wrote about the event twice on his The Times ‘Pendock Uncorked’ blog in two days. He was the scorer at a previous round ‘judging’ event, as well as at the weekend event, at which the list of 100 wines was finalised.  He ‘shyly’ discloses in his first blogpost that he ‘advised 100 Women 100 Wines on selection of wines for the event’, vastly understating his involvement, and he makes no disclosure of his involvement in the second blogpost.  He praises  the ‘seminal’ idea of the ‘revolutionary’ competition (these two descriptions seem a gross exaggeration), alliteratingly (as he is fond to do) writing that “Mack” (whose real surname is known to him) gathered ‘ordinary women’ (not ordinary at all, from the descriptions of their careers) from ‘Pretoria, Porterville and Putsonderwater’ (maybe his creativity to alliterate town/city names with Johannesburg and Stellenbosch was limited!).  Pendock gives sponsors 1Time Airlines, V&A Hotel, Destiny magazine, and ‘Spar’ (not getting its bottle store brand correct) a punt in his blogpost, but does not mention sponsor Cape Town Tourism nor brand ‘Cape Town’ in his blogpost at all! Pendock is known as a very critical wine writer, and would have slated such a frivolous competition, had he not been involved in its organisation, especially as the wines were ‘judged’ sighted at the weekend event, his biggest criticism of Platter judging.

On Twitter only 55 Tweets were generated by 15 Twitterers over the two days, a poor tally. The ‘black diamond’ Destiny delegates from Johannesburg appear to not have embraced Twitter yet.  Newmark Hotels probably received the best benefit of the exposure on Twitter, with some Tweets praising its V&A Hotel.  The sponsors airline 1-Time, Cape Town Tourism, and Destiny, and TOPS at Spar came off worst, in receiving no acknowledgement at all from the delegates!   Only eight wines out of the 100 tasted and tested, being Graham Beck MCC, Stellenrust Timeless, Warwick The First Lady, Nederburg Riesling, JC le Roux, Miss Molly, Le Bonheur Sauvignon Blanc, and De Morgenzon Sauvignon Blanc, received Twitter mentions during the tasting. Distell  sponsored the wines for the dinner, and the Fleur du  Cap wines appeared to receive more favourable comments on Twitter than did the wines in the 100 Wines testing collection!

Nigel Cattermole, fearless wine-knowledgeable owner of Wine @ the Mill, laughed about the event, and called it patronising and a joke.  He said that most of the 100 wines in the collection were bulk mass-produced wines, being ‘mediocre to poor’‘There is no providence in these wines’, he added.

The ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ competition is a farce in more ways than one: The results, in generating a ‘Top 100 best wine list for women’, will hardly be an accolade winemakers would strive to achieve, not having any credibility.  Cape Town Tourism’s involvement in the competition is questioned, given that its energy should be focused on attracting as many tourists to Cape Town as possible, a group of 100 (of which many were from Cape Town or Stellenbosch anyway) making only a negligible  impact on tourism in our city, if any at all, given that the delegates stayed at the V&A Hotel, had all their meals and drinks there, and all activities took place at the hotel, meaning that there was little spend by them in the rest of the V&A or in Cape Town. The association with the competition is a serious dent to the credibility of Cape Town Tourism, in supporting a competition that is patronising to women; is frivolous and lacking credibility in its results; was poorly marketed; benefits the Winelands more than Cape Town; does not meet its intended goal of growing ‘domestic & intl (sic) markets’; does not meet the goal of ‘building winter brand, food/wine tourism and domestic tourism’, and makes no contribution in addressing the tourism crisis in Cape Town!

POSTSCRIPT 31/8: Cape Town Tourism has sent us a comment in reaction to this blogpost, in the name of ‘Thandiwe’, with a false e-mail address thandimotse@yahoo.com, in defence of Cape Town Tourism’s sponsorship of the ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ event, using similar yet contradictory information contained in its Media blogpost and a Tweet about the event.  A Google search confirmed that the only reference to ‘Thandiwe Motse’ is from two mentions on the Cape Town Tourism website.  We have not allowed the false comment, and we are surprised that Cape Town Tourism’s PR department would stoop so low in trying to justify their involvement.

POSTSCRIPT 1/9: The latest Spill blogpost brags about the success of the ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ event, quoting all feedback it has received on Twitter and its blog, even from its co-organiser ‘Dr Neil Pendock’!  Interestingly, the blogpost refers to ‘Thandiwe Moitse’, with a different spelling of the surname compared to the way Cape Town Tourism spells it.   There are no Google entries for this business executive, on either spellings of her surname!  The Cape Town Tourism spelling in its Tweets and media blogpost is the same as the spelling in the Comments posted to this blogpost!

POSTSCRIPT 3/9: A ‘judge’ of the first stage of the event, who was given a voucher for a meal at Societi Bistro by the organisers, and who expressed her dissatisfaction on Twitter with the poor quality of the meal and the service, was called by Mrs McKeon-McLoughlin and asked to remove her Tweet, as she had promised Societi Bistro that they would receive good publicity if the restaurant donated the vouchers!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

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19 replies on “‘100 Women, 100 Wines’ “frivolous, patronising joke”, wasted tourism spend!”

  1. Come Chris….you must know by now that anything that promotes “nation building” and “black diamonds” gets sure-fire sponsorship in the new south africa.

    Personally, I think it is a very good idea.There is a huge untapped and growing black african middle class market.

    They are welcome to visit(and spend) in the Cape anytime as far as I am concerned.

    No doubt very few, if any were qualified wine experts at this event, nonetheless, a foreward thinking winemaker in all likelyhood would have done well to keep an eye on some of the “talk” at the event as well as see what sort of wine the fastest growing demographic of the country leans towards when they do buy a bottle.

    …that’s if they were interested in making money anytime in the future with such a saturated wine market at the moment?

  2. Thanks for your comment Ryan.

    My issue is with Cape Town Tourism paying money for the event, with minimal if any benefit to domestic tourism, aimed at addressing the tourism crisis!

    I have no issue at all with the ‘sistas’ coming to Cape Town at all. In the past year we have see an growing number of accommodation enquiries from them, but not as a result of this competition.


  3. Hi Chris

    I can see how if I was a memeber paying fess towards CTT I would be a bit peeved at my membership fees going towards this event. However, what do you mean when you say…and mainly non-Cape Town wines were ‘judged’!


  4. Thanks for your comment Dionysus.

    I have checked the list again, and it appears that not one of the 100 wines are from a Cape Town-based wine estate (e.g. Constantia, Durbanville).

    Cape Town Tourism should be promoting the products and services of Cape Town, and not of the Western Cape! That is the job of the individual tourism bureaus in the Winelands, and of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, handling Western Cape Tourism marketing!


  5. I have to strongly disagree with your suggested principles of marketing only Cape Town as opposed to the areas around Cape Town. This compartmentalisation of regions makes our lives as tour operators extremely difficult.

    To say that Cape Town Tourism should only promote products of the Cape Town municipal boundaries is purely illogical. Sure, Cape Town Tourism might not receive official funding to market other areas but does this mean we in the tourism industry sell and promote our destination in different pockets unrelated to each other?

    Are you implying, for example, that a tourist that goes to Cape Town considering a trip to the Winelands of Stellenbosch should be shown the door because Stellenbosch doesn’t sit within the official mandate of Cape Town Tourism?

    Tourists don’t care about metropolitan borders. They experience Cape Town and the areas around the city as the same. In fact – many of my European clients considers Knysna to be an extension of Cape Town.
    This might not be correct but in the eyes of our customers this is often a fact and we in the tourism industry have to respond to this effectively and with ease.

    I can guarantee you that tourists don’t care which wines are from which region. They simply want to enjoy the produce of our area – irrespective what municipal jurisdiction it stems from.

  6. Dear Heidi

    You raise the hornet’s nest of the responsibility for the marketing of Cape Town by Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, with its wasteful duplication, as evidenced in this event.

    Cape Town Tourism is a body funded by the City of Cape Town, using Cape Town ratepayer funds. Surely, if Cape Town Tourism is sponsorsing an event financially with ratepayers’ monies, it must benefit Cape Town, and be in support of Cape Town products. The mandate of Cape Town Tourism is not to market the winelands of the Western Cape – this is the job of the District Winelands Municipality, the tourism bureaus of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, etc, and Cape Town Routes Unlimited.

    I understand exactly what you are saying about seamless borders in the eyes of the tourists coming to the Cape, but that means that the tourism model in the Western Cape is incorrect, because it creates boundaries. I did not state that anyone should be ‘shown the door’ outside of Cape Town.

    As the event sponsor, Cape Town Tourism could have demanded the judging of Cape Town-only wines from Constantia, Cape Point, Hout Bay, Durbanville, and Panorama (in the City of Cape Town/Cape Town Tourism definition, Somerset West is part of ‘Cape Town’, so Helderberg wines could be part of the collection too).


  7. Dear Ms Von Ulmenstein

    Did you get my reply to your blog? Please publish it.

    Sincerely, Thandiwe

  8. Dear Skye (aka ‘Thandi’), PR Manager of Cape Town Tourism

    Please read my Postscript to this blogpost! You are making Cape Town Tourism look even more silly than it already is!


  9. You are welcome to clarify my participation of the event with the organisers Ms Von Ulmenstein. Your suggestions are an insult.


  10. I have already clarified why we believe this to be a bogus comment, written by Cape Town Tourism, given the false e-mail address, and the lack of profile of this name and surname on Google. It is a figment of the Cape Town Tourism PR department’s imagination!

    Cape Town Tourism refuses to respond to our e-mails, and now only (publicly) replies to us by means of blogposts on its website!


  11. Lots of sepculation Chris. Are these unqualified and unsubstantiated comments of yours fair or reasonable?

    How on earth can you make sucgh claims without even affording the opportunity for this posting to be viewed?

    What proof do you have this is a ficticious posting on behalf of Cape Town Tourism?

  12. Dear Marco

    As a regular reader of my blog, you will have noted that I justify everything that I write. Please read the Postscripts to this blogpost.


  13. It is quite a claim that Thandiwe is not a real person. I have to say based on my own Google searches, I tend to agree with you, Chris.

    Why use a non-existent Yahoo e-mail address? Why the different spellings of the surname? Why no other Google references to someone who claims to be a high-flyer and plans to move their conference to Cape Town?

    Would the ‘real’ Thandiwe please provide some proof that you exist!

  14. Thank you Paul.

    Even more odd is that ‘Thandiwe’ has written three times, and has not offered her correct e-mail address, or even better her cell number, so that I can call her to verify her comment. She is just ignoring my responses in this regard.

    Thank you for the comment notification suggestion – I will check whether my WordPress version has that feature.


  15. Dear Jeremy

    For one who states that he dislikes reading my blog, you are very intent on getting your disparaging comment accepted on it, sending it three or more times a day! You are welcome to send the same comment to me as often as you like, if you have nothing else to do, but with the disparagement contained in it, I cannot publish it!


  16. Dear Chris

    I honestly did not feel that any of my questions or comments were disparaging (i.e. causing you/your readers to think that I feel your comments/posts have little worth).

    Granted, the comments and questions show that I don’t agree with this specific blog post (and a few others) but I thought my questions were valid, probing and a good start to what could be an interesting debate.

    Furthermore, at no point in my comment did I ever state that I dislike reading your blogs, I simply stated that I’m quite tired of your constant criticism of CT Tourism. In fact I believe that I mentioned that your blog posts are often interesting and informative.

    Having said all of that, I do thank you for acknowledging my efforts at posting a response.

    Kind regards,

  17. Well, you do have balls! In wine circles it has been buzzing about Pendock and his Big Mack for some time now. I am surprised that she is getting away with all of this. Why the false name? Did you know that she cannot even tweet? Her husband does it for her. They also “scan” all comments on their blog and only posts the comments they deem suitable. This competition is a joke, and if I was a member of CT Tourism, I would be seriously peeved if my contribution was spent in this way.

    As for Dr Pendock, he is anything but independent. I wonder when he is going to come clean about the wine he sells commercially, and he has written about it as well, never stating it is his product. Obviously he does not “make” it himself, he has a Portuguese winemaker, but it is made from his grapes. Independent, yes indeed, in his dreams. But that is a story for another day.
    Clare has stated (after enjoying some wine) that Neil and her good self were going to take over the wine scene,now that Wine magazine has shut down, starting up several new wine competitions. Wonder if Cape Town tourism is going to sponsor some of these as well? What a joke.

  18. Dear Lolla

    I love your ‘Big Mack’! In fairness to her, I must say that Comments are getting increasingly out of hand, so much so that I also delete the disparaging ones if they are not cleaned up.

    I still would love to meet you, whoever you are!


Comments are closed.