In the last month two new wine shops (WINES and the House of Wines) have opened on the main road in Franschhoek, a village that already has 45 wine estates open to the public, from which one can buy wines, in addition to a well-stocked Pick ‘n Pay Liquor department, and the long-established La Cotte Inn Wine Sales.

To get a feel for wine sales in Franschhoek via the four wine outlets, I went to visit each of them, and did a comparative price survey based on a randomly selected list of mainly Franschhoek wines, and asked each of the shops what makes them unique regarding the wines that they stock.

La Cotte Inn Wine Sales

Ludwig Maske has owned this wine shop at the entrance to Franschhoek for about fifteen years, the building previously housing a grocery store/general dealer, as well as the restaurant Lanternhof, which belonged to his father.  Ludwig started his career by running the liquor sales section of the old La Cotte Inn, where the Protea Hotel is located now, in his father’s hotel.  Maske’s grandfather owned the Swiss Farm Excelsior (now the Le Franschhoek Hotel), which was a well-known for a Sunday afternoon treat of tea/coffee and scones.  The Maskes have earned their stripes in Franschhoek, and La Cotte Inn Wine Sales is synonymous with Franschhoek wines. 

Ludwig told me that the main part of his business is to supply restaurants with their wine requirements, receiving stock from the wine estates, which is stored, and delivered to the restaurants on demand.  This service is of benefit to the restaurants and the wine estates, as each party works with only one monthly invoice.  Wine sales from the rather dark and characterful shop on the main road are incidental, and would not have carried the business alone, Ludwig said, almost feeling sorry for the new wine shops.

Ludwig said that he represents 48 of the 50 Franschhoek wine estates.   Scarce supplies of Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon may be easier to buy at La Cotte Inn Wine Sales than from the wine farm itself.   The shop sells mainly Franschhoek wines too, but also imported wines such as Mosel Riesling, and wines from France and Spain.  The largest number of imported wines in Franschhoek are sold by La Cotte Inn Wine Sales.  In addition to wines, they sell a wonderful selection of up to 100 imported French cheeses, Cuban cigars, Riedel stemware, and the popular Le Nez du Vin wine aroma testing kit.

Ludwig said that he sells about 30 non-Franschhoek wines, in addition to the 48 Franschhoek wine estates that he represents.  He helps wine farms with winelist compilation, and also with pricing, if required.  He urges restaurants to keep wine prices reasonable, and told me that he recently persuaded Le Quartier Français to reduce its wine prices.  In the shop, Porcupine Ridge is the best seller, priced at R33 for Sauvignon Blanc and at R47 for their reds.  Graham Beck and La Motte wines are in second and third place on sales, being strong and well-known Franschhoek brand names.

Being a wholesaler, La Cotte Inn Wine Sales offers the best prices of all four Franschhoek wine shops, especially for Franschhoek wines.  Ludwig was critical of Pick ‘n Pay nationally, saying that they offer customers one-shop convenience, but that they are ‘killing the small guys’, having recently bought five Aroma stores and turning them into Pick ‘n Pay Liquor outlets.

La Cotte Inn Wine Sales, 31 Main Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-3775  www.lacotte.co.za

House of Wines

It was interesting to talk to Sigi Juling, who described himself as a Namibian and not a German, but he and his fianceé Bettina are both German-speaking.   I was not aware that Sigi had owned Bijoux Square, also on the main road, and here Sigi had owned a House of Wines shop from 2002 to 2007.  He sold the building, and worked in Namibia and went to Europe, returning to open his wine shop in a new location on the main road, opposite the Post Office.

Sigi is knowledgeable about wines, and their pairing with foods, having completed a Diploma from the Cape Wine Academy, having worked as a Sommelier at Grande Roche, having completed a hotel qualification in Germany, having worked at the Radisson Hotel in Granger Bay, and having been the Food and Beverage Manager of La Couronne Hotel before it was renamed Mont Rochelle. 

Sigi stocks wines from 170 wine estates, which are ‘perfectly matured’ according to his business card, and he is looking to increase this number.  He told me immediately that he stocks mainly non-Franschhoek wines, as his Franschhoek customers, many loyal from his previous wine shop, are bored with the Franschhoek wines, and want to try something new.  He also stocks a number of wine-related items in the shop, including an interesting game called Wine-opoly, bottle stoppers, wine books, DVD’s, and more.  Sigi described his shop as proudly-South African, not selling imported wines.  The wines he stocks are those that his clients like to buy, and those that he himself likes.  He does specialised wine tastings for his customers.  His top three sellers are Springfield Sauvignon Blanc, in top position by far (R84,85), followed by Haute Cabriere Pinot Noir Chardonnay (R72,95), and Delaire Shiraz (R84,85).

Sigi is looking to add an olive oil and vinegar section, and both products will be available on tap, which can be bottled in one’s own containers, or in a selection of containers that they will sell.   

House of Wines, 28 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-4120.  www.how.co.za  Tuesday – Sunday 10h00 – 18h00.

WINES

The newest and most modern Franschhoek wine shop is in the new Franschhoek Centre, which also houses the new Pick ‘n Pay and Clicks, and is next door to Café Benedict.  It is co-owned by Elsa Post, an enterprising Franschhoeker, who also owns the Franschhoek Postnet franchise, and Robert Maingard, the owner of the centre, and of  a number of Franschhoek businesses, including Dieu Donné, Café Benedict, the Le Franschhoek Hotel, and the newly opened Le Coq.

What makes this wine shop different to the others is that the stock of wine is kept on consignment, meaning that the wine estates are paid when their wine sells.  Elsa told me that she bought the Platter’s database, and wrote to the wine farms in it, inviting them to have their wines sold on consignment.  She received a good response, and 83 wine estates’ brands are sold in the shop.  Interestingly, only six Franschhoek wine estates (Dieu Donné, Grande Provence, La Verdure, Chanteclair, La Manoir de Brendel, and Topiary) supply the shop, the Franschhoek Vignerons officially not supporting wine sales on consignment, which smacks of Franschhoek politics.   Each wine estate that has signed up with WINES at no charge has good shelf positioning, and is featured on touchscreen TV monitors on the shelves, with tasting notes provided about each wine.  The wine estates are also invited to conduct tastings outside the shop, which attracts attention to the shop, and yesterday I saw a number of persons coming to taste the wines of Arumdale from Elgin, the first time I had heard of the brand.

The top selling wine by far is the mouthful of a brand Hermanuspietersfontein, with Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Bartho Eksteen, and it is his Kleinboet (R104) and No 7 (R91) that sell particularly well, followed by wines from Under Oaks in Paarl (R54 for Sauvignon Blanc and R82 for Shiraz), and Muratie Shiraz (R123). 

In addition to the wines sold, they sell wine cooling bags, the book ‘South African Wines’, crystal glassware, and decanters. Delivery locally is free, and international shipping of wines can be done via Elsa’s Postnet service.  Special protective packaging for the shipping of wine bottles is sold by WINES.   One may buy a bottle from WINES, and then drink it at Café Benedict, without paying for corkage.

WINES,Centre de Franschhoek,23 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-3185.  No website.   Monday – Saturday (they have applied for a liquor licence, allowing sales on Sundays) 9h00 – 18h00 (the licence allows them to remain open until 20h00, and they will do so if they have clients wishing to buy wine). 

Pick ‘n Pay Liquor

The local supermarket has a large section allocated to its Liquor store, with about 20 Franschhoek and about 40 non-Franschhoek wines stocked, in addition to beer and spirits, cheap glasses, ice and cigarettes.  The wines are displayed by variety, and here and there a special can be found on the shelves.

The top three selling wines this month are Porcupine Ridge (R32,99), Graham Beck Brut Rosé (R99,95), and Haute Cabriere Pinot Noir Chardonnay (R79,99).  The Haute Cabriere appears on two of the four best seller lists in the Franschhoek wine shops.

Pick ‘n Pay appears to be the most expensive outlet at which to buy wines in Franschhoek, and it does not have dedicated staff who can inform and advise their customers about the wines that they stock.

Pick ‘n Pay Liquor, Main Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-2075.  Monday – Friday, 8h00 – 20h00, Saturday 8h00 – 17h00

                                                                 La Cotte  House of Wine  WINES   Pick ‘n Pay

Graham Beck Brut                                    R87,00         R93,85                    -            R99,99

Topiary Brut                                              R90,00          -                        R98,00      R89,99

Pongracz Brut                                            R79,00        R93,95                     -            R69,99*

Chamonix Chardonnay Reserve           R210,00        -                          -           -

Springfield Sauvignon Blanc                    -                  R84,85                    -           -

Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz ’08                   R290,00      out of stock          -           -

Chocolate Block ’08                                   R150,00       R173,00                  -           R169,99

Graham Beck Pheasant’s Run                R140,00         -                        -              -

 * Note: special sale price, normal price R88,99.

La Cotte Inn Wine Sales definitely is the shop to buy a Franschhoek wine at, both in terms of having a good likelihood of the wine being in stock, and of it being cheaper to buy there than elsewhere in Franschhoek.  For non-Franschhoek wines, WINES and House of Wines would be the best  sources, depending on the brand required, the latter offering a larger selection of wine brands, and both being likely to be cheaper than Pick ‘n Pay. 

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