This phrase, originally a military precision-bombing expression, not only sums up what The Wine Glass restaurant and tasting venue stands for, but even more dramatically, the vision of the three co-founders who, as they celebrate their first birthday in Hermanus, are confidently making plans to expand their unique model across the Western Cape.
“THE place to eat and drink the best from the region.
Classy with a great vibe!
The ONLY place to drink wine in central Hermanus!”
TripAdvisor members’ comments
“Our vision is to continue to promote this awesome local wine region, and to keep building our loyal local and international customer base. We are in the final stages of raising funds to expand the unique Wine Glass concept to Stellenbosch, Cape Town and even further afield,” says Jacques le Roux, who focuses on day-to-day operations.
“Seeing the concept translate into reality, as well as witnessing a core group of people growing into a confident and highly capable team in a relatively short time frame, has been the highlight of my year and given us the confidence to move forward,” says Mark Kahts, who is responsible for managing the finances of the operation.
“We want to take the model and brand to a number of other locations, in order to showcase the world-class wines that our country has to offer. It is a destination-based experience that encourages the exploration of regional wines and great cuisine,” adds Brennan Davis, who takes charge of marketing for the team.
And why shouldn’t they? Their numbers are indicative of how customers have embraced The Wine Glass offering: the sophisticated, yet warm and welcoming European ambience and style of the venue, the delectable small-plate food menu, the wide selection of wines and tastings, and the focus on local producers and fresh, seasonal ingredients.
In fact, over 70 000 customers have visited The Wine Glass in the past year. Nearly 5 000 have chosen to sample one of the vertical wine tastings. Interestingly, 10 000 have decided to drink one of the four beers on offer instead. On the menu, the Firecracker Duck Chef’s Plate has firmly established itself as the most popular dish, followed by the line fish and the various sharing platters on offer.
Within the next few weeks, wine bottle 10 000 will be opened. While there are 106 wines by the glass to taste, there is a good chance that this bottle will be either a Sauvignon Blanc, the most popular grape varietal, or a bottle of Beaumont Chenin Blanc, the overall best-selling single wine.
“I love how ambitious they have been. Having so many wines by the glass is incredibly difficult to manage, but it allows customers the experience of comparing multiple wines and, in a sense visiting all the tasting rooms of the area, in one place.” – Peter-Allan Finlayson, winemaker Gabriëlskloof Wines, Bot River
“It’s a huge compliment and shows how much the perception of Chenin Blanc has changed also that consumers are open to trying other varietals,” says Beaumont Family Wines’ winemaker, Sebastian Beaumont. “Ten years ago, no matter the quality of the wine, this would never have been the case. The Wine Glass offers such a refreshing way of experiencing our local wines.”
At R42 a glass, the Beaumont Chenin Blanc is not the most affordable wine on offer. Wines by the glass range from R25 – R220 and bottles from R110 – R1 225. Its popularity is rather a reflection of the fact that customers are choosing better quality wines to try by the glass, which they would not necessarily have purchased by the bottle. Uniquely, The Wine Glass also sells every bottle of wine offered for off-premises consumption at the same cellar door price one would pay when visiting the wine farm.
“Sauvignon Blanc is a South African favourite. It is easy and accessible. It is also an all-day drink, with or without food, while red wines are often seen as being for the evening. The region produces excellent cool-climate Sauvignon Blancs, including the unique Elim-Agulhas wines, which are very different from the warmer climate Sauvignon Blancs produced on the other side of the mountain,” says Jacques.
Jacques, Brennan and Mark are clear about one thing: Constantly innovating and adapting has been the key to their success and it remains their biggest challenge for the future. They have already successfully introduced Wine Down Fridays, a two-for-one Happy Hour between 16:00 and 18:00, and Grape Expectations, a highly successful series of wine and food evenings where winemakers are introduced to clients.
“We see The Wine Glass as an extension to our Tasting Room. For local and international tourists to get to visit all the wineries in the region is virtually impossible. Their staff knows our wines, our story and our wines’ stories which affords consumers the opportunity to experience our wines.” – Gerrie Heyneke, Director and shareholder, Hermanuspietersfontein Wines
“In addition, The Wine Glass participates in many local events in close collaboration with the art galleries in our courtyard area, like the FynArts Festival and the First Fridays Artwalk,” says Jacques.
“Identifying and implementing innovative mechanisms for growing our customer base, while maintaining the high quality of products and services already achieved, and without compromising value in an ever-increasing cost environment, are the challenges we will face going forward,” sums up Mark.
“But,” adds Jacques, “Quality rules! No compromise on anything, from wines to food ingredients, to staff training! You cannot be everything to everybody. Stick to your core values and product. Customers either get it, or they do not. It is easy to lower prices by substituting less costly ingredients, but then you end up with a second-rate product. There is a place for that and for those catering for it, but that is not us.”
Nevertheless, changing perceptions that The Wine Glass is expensive remains an objective for the team. “Our wines are priced at lower than normal restaurant mark-ups. This is part of our business model, as we need to keep stock moving to prevent wastage with so many open bottles, but the aim is also to make quality wines more accessible to all. You do not have to drink poor quality wines, as are often served by the glass,” explains Jacques.
“In fact, The Wine Glass value proposition caters for a wide range of price limits, from affordable and competitive, to premium and top-end. Ultimately, quality comes at a cost, which is not always understood by all consumers,” he adds.
But in the end, reminds Brennan, the success of The Wine Glass is very much tied to tourism. “Tourism carries a thread through the entire region and its success or failure is dependent on all spheres of the economy and community. There is seriously untapped potential in the tourism sector and, in order to begin to unlock that potential, we need a united and well-defined message to go out to the world.”
“The Wine Glass is an incredible addition to the hospitality scene. It is a wonderful window and platform for our wine regions in the middle of the tourist hub of Hermanus. It allows locals and visitors to enjoy the best of our wines with lovely food and atmosphere. I am extremely grateful for what they have created.” – Bevan Newton Johnson, Managing Director, Newton Johnson Vineyards, Hemel-en-Aarde