Every year the hospitality industry seems to become more challenging, and 2010 was no exception. What was billed as the ‘golden year’ for all due to the World Cup became a damp squib, and cost most of us in tourism more than we gained. To date the tourism benefit of this world event is not yet evident.

To celebrate Christmas, we were delighted to find a wonderful project to support. Whilst visiting Grande Provence in Franschhoek, I came across the Pebbles Project in the art gallery, and a collection of artwork by children from disadvantaged backgrounds in Western Cape schools.


We bought a painting of a beach scene for our Whale Cottage Camps Bay, painted by Elizna Gertse, a learner attending the Bergendal School and who lives on the Fairview wine estate. The Pebbles Project was launched in 2004, and its focus is children whose lives are affected by alcohol. The fundraising organisation works with wine farm owners, to uplift farm worker communities and encourages the education of workers’ children. We are proud to have assisted Elizna and her classmates in raising funds for the Pebbles Project.

We wish our guests, our suppliers and our hospitality colleagues a whale of a 2011 – for many it can just be better than last year!


Chris von Ulmenstein
Owner, Whale Cottage Portfolio  


Tourism forecast not rosy for 2011

Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch Top Restaurant, Top Chef and Top Service
Social Media compromises Freedom of Speech
Record number of wine stars!

Sweet & Sour Service Awards


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A newly launched TBCSA FNB Tourism Business Index shows conditions in tourism to still be depressed, and there is little confidence that trading conditions will improve for the rest of 2011, reports Business Day. Initiated by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, and sponsored by FNB, utilising the advisory services of tourism consultancy Grant Thornton, the Tourism Business Index was developed to “provide a clearer picture of the performance of the tourism industry for investors”. The first Tourism Business Index scored 89,4 %, and is expected to have a similar score for the second quarter of this year. An index of 100 would signify ‘normal trading conditions’, signalling that the tourism ‘business environment is negative’, the report says. The accommodation sector was particularly negative and depressed about future trading conditions. The performance of the last quarter of 2010 was weaker than the two quarters preceding it, the Index showed, reports Southern African Tourism Update. The Tourism Business Index is aimed at providing not only an update of business sentiment in the tourism industry, but also to position the tourism industry as an important sector of the economy, said Gillian Saunders of Grant Thornton, the consultant who vastly over-predicted the number of international visitors to South Africa during the World Cup. FNB says its role is to help the tourism industry ‘become world class’.
It was disconcerting to note how the two CEO’s of Cape Town tourism bodies Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited contradicted each other so strongly in respect of their view of the festive season. Cape Town Routes Unlimited stated that ‘tourism in greater Cape Town had slumped over the Christmas holidays’, after the success of the World Cup last year, according to its CEO Calvyn Gilfellan, as reported in the Sunday Argus. Gilfellan blamed the unusually strong and extended gale-force south-easter in Cape Town between Christmas and New Year, and the heavy snowfalls in Europe, for the tourism “damper”. The heavy winds kept visitors from most Cape’s beaches and from Table Mountain, Gilfellan said. He quoted arrival statistics, having dropped by more than 3000 international arrivals, on last year’s 77 000 arrivals between December 2009/January 2010, and a decrease by an astounding 16312 domestic arrivals at Cape Town International airport. The Robben Island ferry operation was not affected by the wind, and its 41000 visitors in December was up on 2009 figures, but the ferry did not operate for a week a year ago. Cape Point saw a decrease in visitor numbers of 9 % and Boulder’s Beach a decrease of 14 %. The Table Mountain Cableway had its lowest visitor numbers in ten years in December. FEDHASA Cape Restaurant sector chairman Rey Franco reported “a drop in overall revenue in December”.
Cape Town Tourism, by contrast, reported that Cape Town’s tourist season over the festive period had been ”better than average”, the “average” undefined, and that the city had experienced an “unexpected increase” in hotel occupancies. In a media release dated 22 December, the Cape Town tourism marketing body stated that the city would not experience a “bumper season”. Mrs Helmbold was quoted ten days later about the festive season, at a time when it had not yet ended, and this appeared to be a thumb-suck not validated by any tourism statistics, given that Mrs Helmbold herself was on holiday over the festive period! Mrs Helmbold described the Cape’s summer season as consisting of two parts:
a domestic high point during December (and the school holidays)” - Mrs Helmbold has no clue of the reality of the tourism pattern in this quote, in that the festive season period is made up of a mix of international (German and UK in the main) and domestic visitors, who only arrive in the Cape in any large numbers from 26 December onwards, and who largely left the Cape to return home on 9 January, making it a very short festive season of two weeks. South African visitors to the Cape were more likely to be staying with friends and family than in accommodation establishments, and made little use of tourism services.
an international season that peaks between mid-January and the end of February” - once again, Mrs Helmbold is out of touch, in that a tourism vacuum started mid-January, lasting for two weeks before things pick up again, and then the season will run through until Easter. February looks well-booked ahead already, mainly by British visitors, and those attending weddings.

The exceptionally strong Rand, and the increase to 20% in the VAT rate in the UK, have been prime deterrents to the UK tourists visiting the Cape, the region’s largest source of international tourism. The decline in UK visitor numbers has been pronounced this summer season. However, the extremely severe winter weather experienced in the UK and in Europe has encouraged many tourists to come to the Cape in search of warmth and sun, which they had to the extreme between Christmas and New Year, when Cape temperatures rose up to 42°C in Franschhoek, for example, Cape Town not being much cooler.  

A blow at the start of the festive season was the snow-stuck UK visitors, who could not fly out for three or four days around Christmas, costing hospitality establishments lost bookings. This could have cost Cape Town R 10,5 million per day in lost revenue, estimated the City of Cape Town’s Mansoor Mohamed, Director for Economic, Social Development and Tourism, reported the Cape Argus. Seaside towns such as Plettenberg Bay and Hermanus experienced far lower visitor numbers than in previous years, Johannesburg visitors noticeably absent in the Garden Route town for the second year running. Inland towns such as Franschhoek had lots of day visitors, but reduced numbers of guests staying over in accommodation.


One of the worst weather periods co-incided with the Festive Season in Cape Town and the Western Cape, leaving many visitors disappointed with the weather, and the effect it has had on their holidays, especially for those that have travelled from far. The South-Easter battered Cape Town in December and has not relented in January, and the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company has reported that the largest number of cableway closures was experienced last month by far, and that the Cableway was only able to operate for 55% of its potential operating hours in December, reports the Cape Argus.

In the festive season week, the Cableway lost 25000 visitors due to the gale force winds and resultant restricted visibility. The wind blew at a speed of over 100 km/hour in Camps Bay and in many parts of Cape Town, leading guests to check out of accommodation establishments early. No sooner had the wind died down, two days of rain followed. Inland areas, as well as towns such as Hermanus and those on the Garden Route, were overcast and experienced rain while the South-Easter was pumping in Cape Town. Not only did the wind and rain affect the holiday plans of tourists, but the weather also played havoc with swimming pools of accommodation establishments, which were filled with sand daily, and which were difficult to keep blue. The wonderful Camps Bay beach, as well as many others, were a no-go zone on South-Easter days, ’sandblasting’ beachgoers. Few beaches in Cape Town are South-Easter proof, Clifton being the best protected against the wind.
This summer is also seeing one of the poorest occupancy levels. The Times reports that Cape Town’s top 5-star hotels such as the Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Grace and Table Bay Hotel are seeing occupancy levels decreased by 10 - 20 %, according to Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gilfellan. He attributed the reduced occupancy to the opening of twelve new hotels in the past one and a half years. Gilfellan is quoted as saying that big events are needed for the city, to fill hotel beds. He also said that the positive effect of the World Cup was overshadowing the recent tragic event in a Cape Town township. He said that bookings were more last-minute, and that tourists were trading down, into camping sites and staying with relatives, over the festive season. A price shake-up could be on the cards, Gilfellan added.
A heavyweight delegation from the Western Cape Department of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, members of the Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and ’stakeholders’ of the organisation attended a presentation at the Table Bay Hotel, to receive feedback about Cape Town Routes Unlimited’s performance in the past twelve months, and its way forward. Attendees received a copy of the 2009/2010 Annual Report, a detailed document of the activities of the body which states that its “core business is marketing communications”. It is a shame that so little of the organisation’s budget is spent on beneficial marketing on behalf of the tourism industry in the Western Cape, 52% of the R 38,5 million annual budget which Cape Town Routes Unlimited received from the Western Cape province, supplemented by R 15 million from additional special project income generated, having been spent on administrative expenses. Cape Town Routes Unlimited listed as its tourism marketing achievements some of the following: R20 billion of tourism business generated through international trade shows; organising the ‘67 minutes for Nelson Mandela’ birthday celebration; close to 400 media mentions valued at R162 million, reaching 107 million persons - these are very bold claims!; regional tourism road shows; organising Tourism Month; hosting VIP delegations; a green tourism initiative; receiving bookings at its Visitor Information Centers (set up in the Waterfront in opposition to Cape Town Tourism) to the value of R2,4 million. Conventions are lucrative for tourism business in the Western Cape, and for Cape Town in particular, nine conferences having been secured for the next three years, to be attended by 5650 delegates, with R55 million in economic impact. In his Chief Executive Officer’s Review, Gilfellan writes: “One of our organisation’s greatest achievements during this challenging year was that it established itself as a credible and authoritative voice in tourism”, on the basis of media comments requested from the organisation. Many will question his claim. He stated that industry challenges are the following: “overcoming the effects of the worse (sic) economic crisis to hit the industry in 60 years, the slow pace of transformation and diversification of the industry, stunted growth in our traditional core markets of the UK, Germany, Netherlands and France, limited marketing resources compromising global competitiveness, and institutional disarray leading to the current role confusion, duplication and possible fruitless expenditure.”
Gilfellan also looked to the future, and called for “a speedy resolution to the protracted institutional calamity”, referring to the problem between his organisation and Cape Town Tourism, which the provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde threatened to solve by amalgamation of the two bodies, but has since gone quiet about ; Events, Sports and Business Tourism will capitalise on the World Cup; new target markets like Brazil, India, China, Russia, the Middle East and Africa must be targeted; a tourism community in which business, labour, government and the communities unify around a common vision and partnership; embracing technological advances in marketing; promoting the principle of a ‘quadruple bottom line’, encouraging the tourism industry to pay attention to social responsibility, environmental sensitivity, economic imperative, and climate change. One wishes for Cape Town Routes Unlimited that it addresses its staff imbalance in “employment equity” by gender, occupation and population group; to improve its market research techniques, a weakness it shares with Cape Town Tourism; to contain any duplication in its marketing activities relating to Cape Town that is already managed by Cape Town Tourism; to address the non-sensical brand “Cape Town & Western Cape”; and to speak to tourism leaders about how it can more effectively direct its marketing budget to the benefit of the industry, being Events, Events and more Events in the seasonal winter months.
Three directors of Cape Town Tourism and heads of important Cape Town business tourism businesses joined forces to make a plea for how “cool” Cape Town is in the winter months, a period typically plagued by seasonality, with far reduced accommodation bookings, which has an impact on all sectors of the Cape economy. In an article in the Cape Times, Guy Lundy of Accelerate, Ian Bartes of Cape Town International airport, and Rashid Toefy of the Cape Town International Convention Centre wrote that of all South African cities, Cape Town is unique in its seasonality, which “makes it hard for the hospitality industry to be sustainable”. They added: “With 18 five-star hotels now operating in the city, we must find ways to increase visitor numbers during winter.” The tourism leaders says it is not a surprise that Cape Town sees so many restaurants opening and then closing, in that they build restaurants to meet capacity support in summer, but cannot see this through in the winter months when business falls away. They also state that the number of passenger arrivals in April and May is half of that in December and January. They blamed this on the positioning and marketing of Cape Town as mainly a leisure destination, which “always seem to feature the Waterfront, Clifton and the Winelands on their covers”, with not enough promotion of the city as an investment and business destination. Conference facilities, factories and office blocks do not feature in the city’s marketing collateral. They called for more direct international flights to Cape Town, and more flights between the city and other African cities, to make Cape Town a world business destination, and a global African city, given that it already has a world class airport, good hotels, excellent infrastructure, ’some of the finest restaurants’, natural beauty, entertainment, world-class technology, sophisticated business networks, and a favourable time zone for doing business with the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
To make Cape Town a global business destination, it needs to be considered for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (the M.I.C.E. market). The Convention Centre is ranked 34th in the world in size of business, and it plans to double its capacity to reach its goal of making the top ten list. Winter is an ideal time for conferences, the writers say, in that most activities take place indoors. Whilst conference delegates spend less time in a city on average, their average spend is higher than that of a leisure tourist. The World Cup demonstrated what a good winter weather city Cape Town can be. The soccer fans were not put off by the rain and cold, and their ‘gees’ was not dampened in any way. This leads to a renewed call for the ‘green season’ to be marketed in the winter months. The cooler Cape weather is attractive to visitors from the Middle East, and the Asian countries, who have to endure hot and humid weather at that time. The writers also suggest a winter sale, which reduces accommodation, restaurants, and clothing, as is done in Paris, Singapore and New York. The writers seem unaware that the small accommodation industry has been leading the tourism sector for years, in reducing its rates by as much as half in winter. Last year the restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands also came to the party, and offered good winter specials, some even extending these into current summer specials. If Cape Town had no seasonality, airlines would fly into the city all year round, and would bring travellers, making tourism business more viable and reducing unemployment. It is for this reason that the business tourism leaders asked that the tourism industry get on board the Cape of Good Business!
On the topic of the proposed amalgamation of Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which Cape Town Tourism is respectfully resisting, a Cape Town Tourism AGM guest speaker Claes Bjerkne, a destination marketing expert, said that Cape Town is the “ideal master brand as it is one of the better known cities of the world’, on a par with Paris, London, San Francisco and Beijing. “Cape Town Tourism will not compromise our status as an industry-led association, and we remain committed to marketing Cape Town and its unique experience”, said Mrs Helmbold, the Cape Town Tourism CEO, in response to provincial Minister Winde’s amalgamation plans.
Protea Hotel CEO Arthur Gillis says that delighted World Cup soccer fans that visited Cape Town six months ago will not be coming back this season, but they will recommend the city to friends and family. ”People in the UK are getting fed up with austerity and some will probably decide they would like to go abroad this year, to somewhere different, particularly if airfares stay at reasonable levels” he said.
In our April newsletter last year, we reported about the shock that the proposed onerous guidelines for a new grading assessment system to be implemented by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa had caused. The reaction to the proposal was so negative that its implementation was delayed by four months. Input was sought from assessors, who themselves appeared to be unhappy, and from accommodation establishments, to such an extent that it had to go back to the drawing board. Many accommodation establishments took the bold decision to revoke their star grading, not feeling that they will meet the new criteria sufficiently enough to make them retain their previous star grading. What was surprising was the poor communication by the Tourism Grading Council, in having had feedback that many establishments would withdraw from the voluntary grading assessment system. The new grading system requires all existing clients of the Tourism Grading Council to be registered from scratch. A most pleasant surprise is that the actual assessment has been vastly simplified compared to the initial draft, and the criteria have been relaxed relative to what was intended in the draft, making most of them little different to the previous assessment criteria. We highlight the most important ones:
The draft document required a security guard, and onerous specified security features. This caused an outcry due to the cost of the extra staff and features needed. Now the minimum requirement is for the ‘best possible” safety and security to be offered for one’s guests
Statutory obligations include being registered as a business; registered with the provincial authority (the exact registration is unclear); having public liability insurance; and complying with local authority fire; and hygiene and building access regulations.
No discrimination of any kind is allowed, in terms of denying access to any guests.
Bed linen and towels must be changed every five days - given water shortages and rising electricity costs, the draft requirement of changing towels daily and of changing bed linen every three days caused an outcry.
The bedroom and bathroom size, specified in square meters per accommodation type and star grading in the draft document, has been dropped, the only requirement being that the space “should allow guests to move easily”, with a minimum ceiling height, and should provide “freedom of movement”. The minimum bedroom and bathroom sizes were a sore point in the draft, and would have disqualified many establishments from retaining their current star grading.
 Airconditioning is only required of 5-star establishments - a heater or fan must be made available.
Colour TV’s are required, but no longer have to be flat-screen, as specified in the draft.
Telephones in guest rooms are optional, and not a requirement.
One of the biggest issues was the provision of an 18 hour reception service in the draft document - this has mercifully been changed to “reasonable hours during the period that the establishment is open”.
The minimum Breakfast requirement is a Continental one. Breakfast serving time was specified in the draft, and this has been removed.
The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa project to completely overhaul its grading assessment criteria, and then to withdraw most of the proposed changes due to the outcry from the accommodation industry, is the biggest PR gaffe of the body that has been tasked by South African Tourism to set accommodation quality standards. The Tourism Grading Council’s charming Chief Quality Assurance Officer Thembi Kunene admitted that an error had been made in presenting the first draft to the industry. At a belated presentation in November to the Cape Town accommodation industry, Ms Kunene was commendably honest in her feedback about the effect that the draft proposal had, and that the potential loss of many accommodation establishments from the grading system led to a rethink, and a delay in introducing the new assessment criteria.
Cape Town is bidding to become the Design Capital 2014, and already has earned a reputation for its design strengths, being the home of the highly successful annual Design Indaba, and hosting the annual advertising industry Loerie Awards event for the second year running. Cape Town also is known for its artisic and design talent, and therefore the City of Cape Town has created a Cape Town Design Route.




In a hotly contested 2010 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards announced in November, Rust en Vrede and chef David Higgs won all three top categories of the Awards, in being named the Top restaurant in the country, Top Chef, as well as the restaurant offering Top Service. Even before the Top 20 finalists were announced, we had predicted that Rust en Vrede would be named as the best restaurant in South Africa, for the excellent work of Higgs and his team. With four Eat Out Top 10 restaurants now in Stellenbosch (Rust en Vrede, Overture, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine and Terroir), there can no longer be a debate about Stellenbosch being the new Gourmet Capital of the country. Cape Town, Paarl, and Franschhoek each have only one restaurant in the Top 10 list. An upset was number one restaurant for two years running, and 12th ranked restaurant in the world, La Colombe, not making the Top 10 list. Luke Dale-Roberts, now consultant chef to La Colombe and owner of his new restaurant The Test Kitchen, suffered the same fate as George Jardine did a year ago, in falling off the list due to the new restaurant. No doubt Dale-Roberts will be back on the Top 10 list this year.
The judges looked for passion in the restaurants they evaluated, as well as ambiance, seafood sustainability in following the SASSI list for seafood, the pairing of wine and food, service levels, consistency of delivery, the plates used, the relationship with suppliers, serving real food, sincerity, and a new trend - foraging. Ultimately, the test was whether the restaurant offered their patrons a memorable experience. The Top 10 Restaurant List, as ranked by the Eat Out judges Abigail Donnelly, Pete Goffe-Wood, Arnold Tanzer and Anna Trapido, is as follows:

1. Rust en Vrede, Chef David Higgs, Stellenbosch
2. The Tasting Room, Le Quartier Francais, Chef Margot Janse,
3. Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, Chef George Jardine,
4. Bosman’s, Grand Roche, Chef Roland Gorgosilich, Paarl
5. DW Eleven-13, Chef Marthinus Ferreira, Johannesburg
6. Terroir, Chef Michael Broughton, Stellenbosch
7. Aubergine, Chef Harald Bresselschmidt, Cape Town
8. Roots, Chef Allistaire Lawrence, Johannesburg
9. Overture, Chef Bertus Basson, Stellenbosch
10. Hartford House, Chef Jackie Cameron, Mooi River

A newly named Lannice Snyman Lifetime Achievement Award went to chef Walter Ulz of Linger Longer in Johannesburg, a Top 20 finalist, and celebrating his 30 years of involvement with the restaurant, as well as the restaurant’s 50th anniversary on 1 April. Margot Janse read a moving tribute to the late Lannice Snyman, the first editor of Eat Out.
Recent restaurant reviews we have written are for Genki Sushi and Japanese Tapas Bar in Stellenbosch, Salmon Bar in Franschhoek, stylish Illyria Coffee Concepts in Stellenbosch, The Olive Shack in Franschhoek, the new Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz Wine Estate, Bosman’s, Belthazar, Grande Provence, Raphael’s Restaurant at Asara Hotel, newly opened Café Benedict in Franschhoek, a return visit to Delaire Graff Restaurant, the newly opened Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson Hotel, Luke Dale-Roberts’ new restaurant The Test Kitchen, Café Paradiso now owned by Mr “Madame Zingara” Richard Griffen, The Grand Café in Plettenberg Bay, Nguni Restaurant in Plettenberg Bay, new Giorgio Nava restaurant Down South, new restaurant Sofia’s at Morgenster, Aubergine, new Italian restaurant Il Cappero, Lazari, Bella Lucia, Knife, new Sotano by Caveau, Bread, Milk and Honey, Oishii delicious Caffe, newly opened French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar, new Hemelhuijs, Bistro Sixteen82, Buitenverwachting asparagus menu, OYO at V&A Hotel, Jardine, which is to close down at the end of February, De Oude Bank Bakkerij, Blowfish, Buitenverwachting buffet, Warwick picnics, Grande Provence, Superette, Towerbosch, Reubens at One&Only Cape Town, Ah! Restaurant in Paternoster, Ryan’s Kitchen in Franschhoek, and Saffron Restaurant in Paternoster.
A Franschhoek Wine Valley Food and Wine Route (a mouthful at the moment, hopefully the ‘Wine Valley” will be dropped from the name over time) is being planned, and will include a focus on foods, wines, food and wine pairing, local produce, and deli’s and farm shops.
I spent a most interesting day with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an international organisation that encourages seafood sustainability by conducting audits of seafood products, from the catch until it appears in the supermarket or on the restaurant table. Each of these steps is audited, which results in being awarded the MSC’s ecolabel, guaranteeing fishlovers that the fish they are eating is sustainable in its availability, as well as its fishing method, its processing, and transport to and use in restaurants as well as sales in supermarkets. Its blue ecolabel is an international environmental standard reflecting “the world’s leading sustainability certification for wild-caught fish”. Consumers are encouraged to choose MSC ecolabel fish products when shopping, to help in reversing the decline in fish stocks. In South Africa brands such as I&J and Sea Harvest carry the MSC ecolabel. Restaurants have been slow in coming on board the sustainability boat, and we are only aware of WildWoods in Hout Bay and Blowfish in Blouberg that actively promote SASSI on their menus, particularly the latter. Those restaurants buying their fish from MSC certified fish suppliers are encouraged to display the MSC ecolabel on their menus. Internationally, the work of the MSC has already changed the habits of a leading chef such as Jamie Oliver, who only selects sustainable fish from the MSC website for his dishes now.





Whale Cottage has been the subject of a vicious defamatory Twitter campaign, with unsubstantiated untruthful allegations made, aimed at damaging the reputation of our company. Not only is it malicious in content and libelous, but it is also threatening in its aggressive tone, and has been accompanied by a stalking SMS campaign, which has been reported to the police. So how did this campaign arise? In October we wrote a review on our blog about the digital food and wine magazine Crush!3, of which Michael Olivier is the editor. We regularly requested input from Olivier but received none. Following a dinner party of the Crush3! editorial team, the Twitter campaign began. A number of clues allowed us to link the campaign to David Cope, a food blogger (writing as The Foodie, and owner of PR company Established & Partners). Our Whale Cottage Blog has been regarded as being controversial at times (voted a Top 10 finalist in the Most Controversial Blog category in the recent 2010 SA Blog Awards); we exposed the dishonest claim by Carne restaurant that all its meat is organic; we award Sour Service Awards every Friday, never popular amongst its recipients; we have been critical of many restaurants that we have reviewed; and we have been critical of Crush!, but have acknowledged that it is improving . This does not always make us popular amongst those that we have written about. We are proud of our Whale Cottage Blog, and present the truth as we experience and see it. We are not afraid to tackle any topic. Our reward is the 40000 unique readers reading our Blog every month, and our more than 1600 Twitter followers. I had to ask myself whether one changes tack in the face of such an abusive and terrorising Twitter campaign. Some people I spoke to used the PR adage that all publicity is good publicity. Others said that social media memory is short. But the overwhelming response was that we should change nothing about our Blog, and that we should continue with what we do. This is wonderful support. Some very special readers and followers were brave enough to react to the campaign publicly. We are also grateful to our Twitter followers, who saw the petty campaign for what it was, and unfollowed or blocked the abusive Twitter account.
One of the characteristics of social media is that the boundaries of what one can say are blurred, with no clear guidelines of what is acceptable, and what is not. There is no consistency in the different social media platforms and their codes of conduct. Freedom of speech seems to be the overwhelming principle of this new method of communication, often at the expense of the truth. This raises the question as to what the limits are for social media users, and what responsibility sits with Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogging. Blogging seems to have few restrictions, as there are numerous blogging platforms. Many bloggers use Wordpress, but the company does not specify a Code of Conduct. The servers hosting the blogs may have a code of conduct, but these are not normally visible to the blogger, especially if one works via a webmaster. Facebook’s Code of Conduct is lengthy, and appears to be the most protective against disparagement and defamation. It is also very reactive to complaints in taking action immediately. Twitter has a Code of Conduct too, but seems very loath to take action against Twitter abuse, believing in freedom of speech, and Twitterers’ rights to expression. It does not disallow disparagement, a major weakness of its Code. It also does not demand honesty in Tweeting, which means that anyone can say anything about anyone else on Twitter, without it necessarily being truthful. It abdicates its legal liability in any dispute between Twitterers, yet does call for local country laws to be respected.
In addition, our Whale Cottage Blog came under attack from a small number of persons about whom we had written, including Olivier and Cope from Crush! It was a “Take-Down” request that we received from our then-server Hetzner on behalf of Naashon Zalk, a guest who with his House & Leisure editor wife Naomi Larkin had attempted to defraud us and whom we mentioned in our blog, that alerted us to the power of the server in blocking Freedom of Speech, in their own self-interest. Despite arguing for Freedom of Speech, Hetzner was quite clear about changes having to be made or else they would close down our website. When we were forced by Hetzner, at the instigation of Carl Momberg, to remove one of our blogposts, ironically on Freedom of Speech, and there were calls by Momberg, Cape Town PR manager Skye Grove and Crush!’s Olivier for our blog to be closed down, we moved our website to the USA, to avoid the threat of censorship of our blog, which now makes our site untouchable to any further “Take-Down Requests”.
The current social media “wars” taking place, both in the food and wine arena, should be a reason for bloggers to get together, and to write a Code of Conduct for blogging. This call came from Emile Joubert, a PR consultant to the wine industry, and writer of the Wine Goggle Blog, when he addressed the November meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club. In developing a Bloggers’ Code of Conduct, Joubert called firstly for anonymous comments on blogs to be disallowed, saying that this would never be allowed on a letters’ page in a newspaper. He also called for a boycott of restaurants that ban writers! When asked, he explained the split in the wine industry, based on wine writers being pro- or anti-Platter. The anti-Platter writers are unhappy with sighted tastings to judge the stars awarded to each wine, as they can influence the livelihoods of those affected by lower star ratings.




Not only is the 2011 edition of Platter’s South African Wines green in colour, but it also focuses on sustainability in the guide by highlighting the work by organisations and individuals in protecting and restoring the environment, and in promoting biodiversity. Launching the 31st edition of Platter’s, publisher Andrew McDowell said that 6500 wines had been evaluated sighted from 800 producers, and the highest number of 5-stars ever was awarded to 58 wines. The short-list of wines was tasted unsighted, and resulted in the final list of 5-star wines.


The Red Wine of the Year was voted as De Trafford Shiraz 2008, and the White Wine of the Year was Fleur du Cap’s Bergkelder Selection Noble Late Harvest 2009. Superquaffer of the Year, offering outstanding value, was Nederburg Lyric 2010. The Platter’s Winery of the Year went to Nederburg, in recognition of a ‘winery (which) stood head and shoulders above the rest’. The winery won eighteen 5-star ratings in eleven Platter editions, and five 5-star wines in the new edition. Cellarmaster Razvan Macici was delighted to receive this prestigious honour, particularly as he is celebrating his 10th anniversary at Nederburg. The Platter 5-star rated wines are the following, by variety (* denotes first-ever 5-star rating):

Cabernet Sauvignon: Boekenhoutskloof 2009, Delaire Graff Reserve 2008*, Kanonkop 2007, Klein Constantia 2008, Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2007, Le Riche CWG Auction Reserve 2007
Grenache: Neil Ellis Vineyard Selections 2008
Pinot Noir: Meerlust 2008, Newton Johnson Domaine 2009
Pinotage: Beyerskloof Diesel 2008

Shiraz: Boschendal Cecil John Reserve 2008, Eagles’ Nest 2008, Haskell Pillars 2008, Rijk’s Private Cellar 2005, Saxenburg Select Unlimited Release 2006
Merlot: Shannon Mount Bullet 2008*
Red Blends: Ernie Els Signature 2007, Graham Beck Ad Honorem 2007, Hartenberg The Mackenzie Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2007, Nederburg Ingenuity Red 2007, Reyneke Reserve Red 2007*, Spier Frans K. Smit 2006, Vergelegen Red 2005
Chardonnay: Groot Constantia Gouverneurs 2009, Julien Schaal 2009*, Mulderbosch 2008, Rustenberg Five Soldiers 2008
Chenin Blanc: Botanica 2009*, StellenRust ‘45′ Barrel Fermented 2009*

Grenache Blanc: The Foundry 2009
Sauvignon Blanc: Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run 2010, Klein Constantia Perdeblokke 2009, Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2009, The Berrio 2009, Zevenwacht 360º 2009*
White Blends: Cape Point Isliedh 2009, Hermanuspietersfontein Die Bartho 2009*, Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2009*, Nederburg Ingenuity White 2009, Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay Private Bin D253 2009, Rall White 2009, Sadie Family Palladius 2009, Steenberg Magna Carta 2009, Steenberg CWG Auction Reserve The Magus 2009, Strandveld Adamastor 2009*, Tokara Director’s Reserve White 2009
Méthode Cap Classique: Topiary Blanc de Blancs Brut 2008*, Villiera Monro Brut 2005
Dessert Wine, Unfortified: Fairview Le Beryl Blanc 2009, Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2006, Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2009, Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur 2009
Port: Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve 2008, De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2008, De Krans Cape Tawny NV, JP Bredell Cape Vintage Reserve 2007


One of the most refreshing wine marketers in South Africa, and focusing predominantly on traditional marketing media, is Hermanuspietersfontein, a mouthful of a wine brand, and also the original name of the seaside town of Hermanus. Its winemaker Bartho Eksteen was named the 2010 Diners’ Club Winemaker of the Year. Eksteen and his team are proudly-Afrikaans, choosing one of the longest wine brand names in the country (although abbreviated to HPF on some labels), in their choice of sub-brand names (Bloos for their Rosé, Swartskaap, Kleinboet and more), and in their advertising. Leading their marketing is Gerrie Heyneke, an advertising veteran of The White House, Y&R Cape Town and DDB South Africa. He is the CEO of grapefuel.co.za.

Eksteen himself is a character, much like his wines, and his 2009 Hermanuspietersfontein No.5 Sauvignon Blanc won the award, for the wine produced for the first time exclusively from grapes of its own vineyards. The 2010 Diners’ Club Young Winemaker of the Year was named as RJ Botha of Nitida in Durbanville, for the winery’s 2009 Calligraphy, a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bosman’s at the Grande Roche Hotel and Zachary’s at Pezula Hotel & Spa were the two restaurants whose winelists were chosen as the joint-best in the country in the Diner’s Club Winelist Awards. The top accolade a restaurant winelist can achieve is Diamond, with a score of 91 % or more, and was awarded to the following restaurants: 96 Winery Road, Asara Wine Estate and Hotel, Aubergine, Azure at Twelve Apostles, Balducci’s, Balthazar, Bientang’s Cave, Bistro Allegro, Blowfish, Bosman’s, Bushman’s Kloof, Carne, Catharina’s, Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel, City Grill, Ellerman House, Flavours, Greek Fisherman, Harbour Rock, Hunter’s Country House, Jardine, Karibu, La Colombe, Le Quartier Français, Marc’s, Meloncino, Nobu, Pembrey’s, Pure, Restaurant at The One&Only, Rioja, Rodwell House, Sand, Signal at Cape Grace, The Atlantic Grill at the Table Bay Hotel, The Square at the Vineyard Hotel, The Wild Fig and Zachary’s.


One of South Africa’s top wine estates, Hamilton Russell Vineyards from the Hemel & Aarde Valley outside Hermanus, is celebrating the 30th vintage of its award-winning Pinot Noir, by launching a 5-year Vertical-Vintage pack of its Pinot Noirs from 2005 - 2009. What makes the Vertical-Vintage packs unique is that their back-labels have been specially made, using the works of five top South African artists: William Kentridge, Gerard Sekoto, Gail Catlin, JH Pierneef and Beezy Bailey.


Anthony Hamilton Russell, Mr Über-Cool of wine marketers, took his Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc into the Indian ocean to age for two years. The end result is a wine in a bottle that is covered with distinctive marine life, representative of the world’s biggest mammal that the brand is honoured to be named after, and that is synonymous with Hermanus. After ageing in 9 metres of sea water in the Hermanus New Harbour, 425 bottles of the 2004 Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc, the tenth vintage, were sold out within days, with barnacles, seaweed and all.

A new guided tour of the wine farms, focusing on those wine estates that are ‘green’, organic, support biodiversity and generally care for nature, has been launched, with tours to the Winelands every Wednesday. The tour highlights how much work is being done by individual wine estates to give something back to nature, and how each of them do something to ensure that their farming practices do not add to the carbon overload. It is clear that this good work is being done out of a genuine interest in and love for the environment. It also indicated what diversity there is in being a ‘green’ wine estate, with the wide range of different actions wine estates undertake to be environmentally friendly.


I was pleasantly surprised to recently stumble upon the new Brampton Wine Studio in the heart of Stellenbosch, on Church Street, a small space with the most attractive interior design. Brampton is a Rustenberg brand which was recently taken over by DGB Wines. Its marketing strategy is to bring its wine range to the market, and to not expect its market to find its wines on a farm. Brampton’s wines are made from grapes which come from Elgin, Paarl and Stellenbosch, and each variety of Brampton is made by a different DGB winemaker. All the Brampton winemakers get together, however, to ensure consistency in brand character. The company is very focused on reducing its carbon footprint. The Brampton wines are very affordable.

The City of Cape Town has lost face in having to first amend, and then hold back the final gazetting of its proposed By-Law to restrict liquor trading hours and days. The draft Provincial Liquor Amendment Bill allows each municipality in the Western Cape to define liquor trading hours for hotels, restaurants and pubs. If they do not define them within the confines of the proposed liquor law, the Bill sets default liquor trading hours which they must abide by. The Western Cape Bill is a “test case”, in that other provinces are set to model their own liquor legislation on that of the Western Cape, once it has gone to the provincial legislature. The proposed draft Bill had set liquor trading hours in accommodation establishments, hotels and pubs at 11h00 - 23h00, only allowing such businesses operating in built up business areas to trade until 2h00. The City of Cape Town’s councillor Taki Amira acknowledged at a Western Cape Provincial Liquor Conference that ‘the city had made a mistake in its trading hours provision when it drew up the Provincial Liquor Amendment Bill. The Vineyard Hotel and Mount Nelson Hotel operate within residential areas, and would have had to be rezoned to be able to sell alcoholic beverages until 2h00, a process that could take months. The City admitted that it did not know that not all hotels in residential areas were not rezoned. Amira lambasted FEDHASA Cape, the hotel association, for not communicating with the City earlier in the process, as the draft legislation had been published more than two years ago. Whilst FEDHASA calls itself a lobbying body in the interest of its members, it seems to have become powerless in the past few years, rather wishing to stay non-controversial and in its publics’ good books than criticise negative developments on behalf of its members (signing up with MATCH and then losing the bulk of the bookings is an excellent example). The Cape Times quoted FEDHASA as having described the proposed Bill as ‘draconian’ and ‘verkrampte’, heavy words indeed. A special plea was made for the serving of champagne and sparkling wine with breakfast before 11h00, and this was granted! Wine farms were also affected by the proposed draft, in that they were to close their liquor sales at 18h00, which would have affected weddings and functions held at such estates, as well as restaurants operating on wine farms, with sales banned initially on Sundays. Sunday trading will now be allowed, and restaurants and function venues on wine farms can serve drinks until midnight.
The Western Cape province has the highest alcohol-related problems, and sought to introduce the Bill to prevent the rise of alcoholism, and to reduce its impact on alcohol-related accidents. The Liquor Trading Days and Hours By-Law has attracted the wrath of the members of the newly-formed Club, Bar and Restaurant Association of the Western Cape, who contributed money to a legal fund to fight the By-Law by means of an interdict, reports the Cape Times. The association is looking to get members on board, to have a large enough legal resource of about R1 million to “put these guys to bed”, said Shaan Nordien of the Chrome Club. The first step will be to apply for an interdict from the court, whereafter the association will challenge the constitutionality of the By-Law, says the association’s legal advisor Zeeshan Nordien. An interesting development, demonstrating the seriousness of the association members, is the appointment of specialist liquor lawyer Danie Cronje of Cluver Markotter, reports the Cape Times. A letter with grievances has been sent to the City of Cape Town, which it has decided to study first before going ahead with gazetting the By-Law. The Association is claiming that up to 150000 jobs could be lost due to the potential loss of business caused by the new Liquor Trading By-law, reports The Times.
A potential new change to the By-Law could be a “cooling off period” for drinkers, which would allow establishments such as pubs, bars and restaurants selling alcohol to allow their patrons to stay on at the premises, serving them coffee, but disallowing the sale of alcohol after 2h00, so that the drinkers are in a fitter state to drive home, reports the Cape Argus. Councillor JP Smith has warned the rebelling club and bar owners that the new By-Law will be implemented across the board, and accused them of ‘profiteering off liquor abuse”, the newspaper reports. “We have always known that people who profiteer off the sale of liquor will not want to give that up. But we will sit it out, because of how important this is. Those that protest about the new trading hours are not the ones paying the hospitals, or the ambulances, or the emergency services. They’re not the ones having to pick up the pieces that result from alcohol abuse. They’re looking at their profits”, he added. Smith said that the City would target the establishments receiving the most complaints in terms of noise level and fighting. The By-Law will largely rely on customer complaints for its implementation to be effective.





The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to info@whalecottage.com. Winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of the WhaleTales blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.


The latest Sweet Service Awards winners are the following:


Friendly 7 Eleven, for reporting money left in an ATM to customer Rosemary Gough ... read more

Woolworths at the V&A, and its Foods Manager Garth Karsten, for his hands-on service in the store … read more (14/1 LINK) ... read more
Ria’s Pools in Franschhoek, for excellent service on New Year’s Eve ... read more
Huguenot Fine Chocolates in Franschhoek, for making up an order at short notice ... read more

Charly’s Bakery, for their present of a birthday cake ... read more

Vida e Caffe, for offering customers water in jugs, with lemon and ice, despite selling bottled water ... read more
Plettenberg suppliers, for their services in re-opening Whale Cottage Plettenberg Bay ... read more
La Residence, for a special 95th birthday lunch held ... read more
The Cape Town Festival of Beer and to Shafeeka Anthony of Rabbit in a Hat Communications ... read more
Seth Rotherham of cult blog 2Oceansvibe, for organising a new pair of Rayban sunglasses from his sponsor Sunglass Hut ... read more
Paul von Zeuner, the Manager of ABSA Bank Sea Point, who assisted in getting a ‘hot card’ reading removed from a credit card ... read more
Nederburg, for hosting a season of wonderful monthly Sunday evening concerts, crowned by the Grand Finale ... read more

Bantry Bay Pharmacy, for their kindness ... read more
Alexander Forbes insurance company and its staff member Prosper Nkabinde, for his patient assistance over a six week period in getting a car written off by his company … read more
DEUKOM, for passing on the reduced cost of its contracts with German TV channels due to the exchange rate to its South African customers … read more
The Waterfront Boat Company, for hosting a group of guest house owners on a harbour cruise … read more

The Mercedes Benz workshop in Century City, for fixing a technical problem at no charge ... read more
  Vrede & Lust, nominated by Clive Friedberg of Executive Touring … read more

La Motte wine estate in Franschhoek, nominated by Ryan Smith, of Ryan’s Kitchen in Franschhoek … read more


The Sour Service Awards recently went to the following:

Cape Town Tourism, and its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold ... read more

Clicks Franschhoek, for rude service ... read more
Tafelberg Furnishers in Green Point, whose manager was not interested in a delivery problem ... read more
Vida e Caffe in Sea Point, for poor service due to understaffing over the festive season ... read more
Sunday Times, and its sister paper The Times, for taking a holiday over the festive season ... read more
CNA, for not having any staff on the floor ... read more

Vodacom’s outlet at Somerset Mall, for delaying the activation of an iPhone 4 upgrade ... read more

Winchester Mansions, for a waitress keeping change instead of returning it to the customer ... read more
Mercedes Benz Financial Services, for their attempt to deceive their customers ... read more
Nedbank in Sea Point, who took 45 minutes to issue a replacement credit card and to set up an Internet banking profile ... read more
Waltons Waterfront and its Manager June, for not placing an order for printer cartridges ... read more
V&A Waterfront, for allowing smokers, mainly being staff of the shops, to smoke in the enclosed parking garages ... read more
Robben Island Museum, for regular breakdowns of its ferry ... read more
Hillcrest Berry Farm, nominated by Jacoba Budden … read more
Cape Town Tourism and its PR Manager Skye Grove … read more
Bird Boutique Café in Bree Street for poor service … read more
Amatomu.com, a blog aggregator, for regular website problems ... read more
Builders Trade Depot in Hermanus, in struggling to provide a Tax Invoice meeting SARS prescriptions … read more
City of Cape Town, for planting palm trees all over Cape Town, but for not checking up on their fronds coming crashing down on stormy days in suburbs such as Camps Bay and Fresnaye … read more



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