Cape Classics Braais: Passport to South Africa

Cape Classics is taking the traditional portfolio tasting and turning it on its head. For the third year in a row, the enterprising importer invited its South African winemakers to showcase their current releases during an outdoor braai—a long-held South African tradition of cooking over an open flame among friends and great wine. What started in 2014 in New York as a unique way to introduce its tri-state customers, distributors and their sales teams to authentic South African culture, has quickly grown to include two additional cities (Boston in 2015 and Miami this year) and is said to be one of the most enthusiastically attended importer-hosted events in the industry.

“Four years ago I went to an industry portfolio tasting and what I witnessed was a lack of energy, passion and remarkable little business being conducted,” stated Rob Bradshaw, President and COO of Cape Classics. “As an importer and producer, we strive to be seen as a vanguard of our industry. And for us, that means giving the market what it wants, demands and most importantly, what it deserves. We knew a traditional portfolio tasting would no longer support that aspiration.”

“Hence, the U.S. Braai was born,” continued Bradshaw. “A culmination of four years of work and vision, our goal was to present our customers with the opportunity to try our brilliant winemakers’ wines in the exact same way they would if they were invited to their home in Cape Town for a Saturday afternoon Braai.”

The unprecedented tasting events welcomed the winemakers/owners/representatives from Bayten, DeMorgenzon, Excelsior, Glenelly, Indaba, Kanonkop, Morgenster, Mvemve Raats and Raats Family Wines (and their new B Vintners project). For the first time, the Cape Classics braais included two French producers who are making their mark on the South African wine scene: Domaine Vincent Carême with their Terre Brûlée project from the Swartland and Domaine Philippe Colin with his soon-to-be-released Topiary brand from Franschhoek.

Last week, braais were held in Boston and New York City on Wednesday, May 18 and Thursday, May 19, respectively. The Boston Harbor Yacht Club played host to the New England crowd, while the NY braai—held for the first time in Manhattan—was at home on the Surrey Hotel rooftop, overlooking the NYC skyline. Between both events, an unbelievable 206 pounds of meat were prepared and consumed, including custom-made Boerewors (South African sausages), Peri-Peri Shrimp Skewers, Bone-in Tomahawk Ribeyes, Rosemary & Garlic Lamb Chops and more.

The Miami tasting was held beachfront at the South Seas Hotel on Wednesday, May 4. Over 100 pounds of food was braai’d, impervious to the torrential downpours brought on by Mother Nature that day. The guest list at each event included media, retailers, on-premise buyers and representatives from the company’s distribution partners.

The Cape Classics team, inspired by the continuously growing enthusiasm for its braais, is aiming to expand the number of markets in which they host them from three to six in 2017 and as many as eight in 2018. Possible cities include Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and major metro-areas within Texas.

“At Cape Classics, we seek and demand authenticity, and our customers and business partners deserve no less than that,” said Bradshaw. “If we can’t bring them all to South Africa for a proper braai, then damn it – we will bring one to them.”