SA restaurant best in the world

[Image] The Rust en Vrede restaurant has been
named international best restaurant for
2010 at the Best of Wine Tourism awards.
(Image: Rust en Vrede)

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South Africa’s Rust en Vrede restaurant, located on the wine estate of the same name in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, has scooped the prize for international best restaurant at the annual Best of Wine Tourism award ceremony.

This is the first time the estate has featured on the list of international prize-winners.

The awards are held under the auspices of the Great Wine Capitals (GWC) global organisation, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2009.

GWC links eight major global regions, all internationally renowned for their outstanding wines, from both hemispheres, thus bringing the so-called old and new worlds of wine together.

The organisation has set up business and travel networks, has held symposia, and promotes knowledge sharing among its members, working for the benefit of all.

Cape Town and the Cape winelands – along with Bordeaux (France), Florence (Italy), Mainz (Germany), Mendoza (Argentina), Porto (Portugal), Bilbao-Rioja (Spain) and the San Francisco-Napa Valley region – is a GWC partner.

From 2010 Christchurch in New Zealand will join the elite group as the third representative from the southern hemisphere.

The ceremony to name the winners for 2010 was held at the Chateau Giscours, a 14th-century winery in Bordeaux, in early November. The world’s top experts from wine-growing regions in Europe, North America, Latin America, South Africa and New Zealand were in attendance. Besides Rust en Vrede, another seven international awards were given to the best of the 56 regional entries.

La Sosta del Gusto at the Castello del Trebbio in Florence also took honours in the restaurant section.

Other category winners were Algodon Wine Estates in Mendoza for best accommodation; Quinta do Seixo in Porto for best architecture; the Clos Pegase in San Francisco-Napa Valley for art and culture; the Bodegas Muga in Bilbao for most innovative experiences; Wiengut Hemmes in Bingen-Kempten, Germany, for sustainable practices; and Château Pape Clément in Bordeaux for best wine tourism services.

High standards praised

Other regional South African winners that went forward to compete against international rivals in their categories included Vergelegen for arts and culture; Cloof of Darling for sustainable practices; Robertson Wine Valley for most innovative experience; Waterford for best wine tourism services; the Devon Valley Hotel for accommodation; and Grande Provence Estate for architecture.

Deputy mayor of the Winelands district municipality Clarence Johnson expressed his satisfaction with the consistently high standard of local entries, despite the recent global financial crisis. Jonhson is also the current GWC president.

“These winners demonstrated a capacity to face down the credit crisis by offering better value, enhancing the quality of their experiences, innovatively focusing on local highlights in the natural environment, in cuisine, arts, crafts and culture and by paying extra attention to detail,” he said.

Johnson was convinced that this was a good sign for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The month-long football extravaganza kicks off in Johannesburg in just less than seven months.

“Financially hard-pressed international and local visitors can be confident of money well spent in the Winelands,” said Johnson, “whether at the top end or at more affordably priced levels. This is critical if we are to advance our international popularity and reputation.”

A number of local hopefuls received commendations from the GWC judging panel. Among them were Greatest Cape Wine Tours, the KWV wine- and brandy-producing company, and the Almenkerk, Seidelberg, Delheim and Rustenberg estates.

Historical setting

In recent years Rust en Vrede’s restaurant has garnered as much praise as the wines have, under the watchful eye of Chef David Biggs, a former member of South Africa’s national culinary team. With the wine cellar now relocated underground in another first for a privately owned South African estate, the restaurant is situated on the premises of the old cellar, which is a national monument.

Nestled in the tranquil Stellenbosch wine-making region, Rust en Vrede was established in 1694 by then Cape governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel. Development of the estate only started in 1780 with the building of a house, and later the cellar in 1785 and manor house in 1790.

The 55ha Rust en Vrede estate is currently owned by the Engelbrecht family, experienced grape growers since the early 18th century. The estate produces 20 000 cases of wine a year. Of this, around 65% is destined to end up on overseas shelves. Rust en Vrede exports to over 30 countries.

At the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize celebration dinner in Oslo, where former presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk were honoured, the wines on the tables were Rust en Vrede. The estate has since notched up a number of other milestones, including an export achievement award from then-president Mandela in 1994. In 2000 it became the first South African estate to make it onto US magazine Wine Spectator’s list of the top 100 wines of the world.

Since the Engelbrecht family took over 32 years ago the estate has produced only red wines, specialising in Merlot, Cabernet and Shiraz. All wines are made from hand-selected grapes, picked at the optimum time of the season.