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Tuning the Vine: Rediscovering Cape Town’s streets through its #innerCityWineRoute

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It’s a windy Wednesday evening in Cape Town and the usual after-work commuter traffic is in full swing. To the untrained eye, it seems like the city is emptying out for the night, as it does.

But, on closer inspection, it soon becomes clear not all the streets are running dry: upper Bree, Loop, Long and the perpendicular ones connecting them, get their second wind, as an enthusiastic young crowd – in drips and drabs – follows a trail of red and blue balloons.

For, you see, tonight is the second Wednesday of the month and not even the gusty South-Easter can spoil this opportunity for an adventure along the #innerCityWineRoute with Tuning the Vine.

How it works

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To me, the phrase ‘wine route’ seems to carry with it a particularly pastoral aesthetic – airy tasting rooms overlooking rolling vineyards and tranquil ponds. You know, the kind of beautiful views that tend to blend into one as you go along (especially after the how many tastings of the day).

So, the idea of taking a wine tour in an entirely urban setting immediately tickled my fancy. And the fact that it required zero driving (and thus no need to designate someone to the dreaded task) brought a huge sense of relief.

Having gotten our tickets online beforehand, we headed on over to 91 LOOP, the official starting point for the evening, and the spot where we’d receive our glass, our map and our first sips of wine.

By 6pm, the lobby and bar section of this chic boutique hotel was already buzzing. A young and trendy crowd – comprising a good mix of Capetonians and tourists – gathered around tasting tables and we fell in line.

Once our glasses had been charged with some super smooth Lanzerac Chardonnay, we whipped out the map and worked out our route. Deciding to head a bit further up Loop, our next stop would be House of H, followed by The Gin Bar, after which Weinhaus + Biergarten just seemed to make sense.

Along the way, we tasted wines from far and wide – Steenberg’s Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, Sevenwaght’s flagship white, Luddite Chenin and even an expertly mixed Courvoisier cognac cocktail – and (re)discovered all sorts of new nooks and crannies along our cities streets.

How it all started

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Tuning the Vine has been running for exactly two years, with the first one ever having taken place at The Lookout in November 2014.

The brainchild of Richard Mills and Shereen Amos, it was inspired by a clear gap in the market for a wine experience that would charm Millennials – one that would be fun, informative and playful, transforming the once high-brow beverage, into something accessible, personal and engaging.

“We saw a need to create a unique wine event geared to Millennials, who are consuming wine on their own terms and without the usual wine prissiness. There was nothing that we could see that was catering to this opportunity,” Richard explains.

Following the success of the first event, Richard and Shereen started working on evolving the idea into the funky monthly format we now enjoy as the #InnerCityWineRoute.

A social calendar highlight

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Over the past two years, this mid-week wine adventure has gained growing traction, drawing between 850 and 1200 attendees to each event so far.

“We have found that each month has its own character and each is totally unpredictable. We were [also] thoroughly surprised when, during winter, we sold out for two months in a row,” says Richard.

Due to the Mother City’s unpredictable weather patterns, the winter route is limited to about 10 venues between Wale and Strand Streets, with 25 wine producers offering tastings. In summer, it practically doubles with up to 20 venues and 40 producers taking part.

Encouraging an after-hours economy

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In a similar vein to First Thursdays, Tuning the Vine has played a massive role in encouraging those who would normally head out of the city at the stroke of 5pm, to linger a little longer, which, in turn, has done wonders for boosting the after-hours economy.

“We believe we contribute positively to both the commercial and tourism potential of the City and the growing appeal of the inner city. Tuning the Vine also attracts a significant foreign visitor attendance – which must be good for the city and for wine producers alike,” says Richard.

He adds that the Cape Town inner city offers the ideal sort of geography for the creation of an inner-city wine route, as there are so many fantastic establishments in close proximity to one another.

“The support and enthusiastic participation we receive from the venues, wine producers and the safety and security on the streets created by the CCID – all contribute to this magical experience. It’s the wonderful collaboration of all these stakeholders that makes this possible,” he concludes.

What the future holds

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While the Tuning the Vine team will continue working hard at preserving the #InnerCityWineRoute as a quality urban tasting experience, they are also planning on expanding beyond the Mother City in the first quarter of 2017.

Turning their gaze toward the City of Gold, they will be launching a test run of the #JoziCityWineRoute in March, April and May of 2017, where 4th Avenue in Parkhurst presents a similar landscape of opportunity.

Apart from this, they hope to strengthen bonds with and between wine producers and venues, and have also brought Cybercellar on board to offer attendees easier access to buying the wines they discover en route.

A few quick facts:

-          Tuning the Vine always takes place on the second Wednesday of the month

-          You can buy tickets online for R170 or at a selection of venues on the night for R190

-          A cool stemless, branded wine glass is included in your ticket price

-          If you feel like you may need a bit of help understanding wine, you can opt for a Sommelier Tour that costs an extra R150 per person

-          Finally, the next Tuning the Vine takes place on 7 December, so get into the festive season buzz by booking your ticket now!

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