But a weekend at Hartenberg estate has shown me it is not rocket science, it it a simple equation. They have a winemaker who's every thought and breath is his wine; a humble farmer, a modest genius. He is most comfortable amid his tanks and barrels, and his closest ally is Wilhelm, a viticulturalist burnt mahogany by the sun, forged amid the vines and who lives(quite literally) in the midst of them.
This is where many wineries stop, great grapes and great wines, they should sell themselves right? In this day and age we all know this is not the case.
What sets Hartenberg apart is that they realise that wine is an experience not a lesson. They link it to music; the Riesling and jazz festival is a sell out event. they link it to family; picnics amongst the vines, children's laughter, flowing sauvignon and small flowers tucked into the napkins, it really is in the details. They link it to people; it was beautiful to see a Swedish couple greeting Betty at the tasting room as a long lost friend as they visit each year and she remembers their individual quirks. They intrinsically link it to nature; Biodiversity is not a marketing tool it is a philosophy and having a picnic under Africa's endless blue sky listening to the cry of the rare fish eagle, a breeding pair who, demonstrating great taste have made Hartenberg their home emphasised just how unique this place is.
Wine is about producing something beautiful and evocative to drink, it is about making each person, whether student or Sommelier feel connected and a part of the experience, it is about creating memories and promising dreams.
A group of students arrived, seeing their genuine interest the tasting staff opened the very rare and expensive gravel hill single vineyard Shiraz, most definitely not a wine available for tastings. Two of the boys bought a case each to cellar at the winery for their wedding, once they had found a woman worthy of that memory.
Cheap marketing gags are a waste of time. Quality, care, attention to detail and a memorable experience, it's a winning combination.
Written by Alex Harper, London Trade Sales