During the Covid-19 lockdown, it’s had to be even more creative than usual.
Co-owners Jean-Claude and Carolyn Martin responded to the lack of footfall by launching virtual tasting packs, which allow customers to enjoy a sensory and guided tasting of six wines in the comfort of their own homes. And when customers were allowed to return to the tasting room, they assigned one ‘tasting ambassador’ to each visitor, limiting guest’s interaction to that one person and ensuring exclusive attention and engagement.
Carolyn (above) told Canopy the initiatives have been “hugely successful”. She explained: “We have done tastings in nine countries across the world and, in some, multiple tastings. This has allowed us to stay connected to our clients while we cannot travel.”
In fact it’s been so successful, Carolyn said, “We believe this is a way to create a less seasonal approach to our business in the future and reach more people to develop our brand across the world.”
South African Carolyn and her Swiss-born husband, ‘JC’ (above), established Creation Wines in a remote corner of the Walker Bay wine region in 2002, planting 40ha of vines and creating “a model wine farm”.
‘Customers remember the good times they shared at Creation’Things had been going very well and, last year, they made the World’s Best Vineyards Top 50, but this year, Carolyn said, things have been “very difficult”. She sums up the problems South African wineries faced: “Government began our lockdown on the 26th of March at midnight and initially threatened a ban on the production of wine as it is an unessential product. We were at the end of our harvest but still had 30 tons in the vineyard. You can imagine our relief when the production ban didn’t go through. Government, however, did put a ban on the local sale of alcohol as well as exports. The following months were a rollercoaster ride until mid-August when we had some respite in the off-trade and then we were also allowed to start online sales. Until recently, we could only trade from Monday to Friday (9am to 5pm), which was tough since it is over weekends that most of our clients have time to visit.
“We have managed to pivot from on-con to high-end retail and are very pleased to see the uptake on this thanks to building our brand through wine tourism over the years! Customers remember the good times they shared at Creation, our excellent wines and are delighted to find them on the shelf!”
Wine tastings at the winery have always been a complete immersion into the entire experience of wine. In response to the Covid-19 situation, the winery launched virtual tasting packs to allow customers to enjoy a sensory and guided tasting of six wines in the comfort of their own homes.
They also launched a marketing campaign called ‘Spreading Creation Magic’ with this tagline: ‘Tasting Together, Apart’.
The offer initially comprised four tasting kits, but a fifth one has now been added.
- Alchemy Tasting Kit includes 6 x 50ml samples of Creation Wines, complementary food samples, the Creation Flavour Wheel, Creation Tasting Chart, six short videos on the wines, dedicated Creation Spotify playlist, and a Creation personal shopper to conduct the tasting via Zoom.
- Wine Tasting Kit includes 6 x 50 ml samples from the Creation Estate range, and a Creation personal shopper to conduct the tasting via Zoom.
- Creation Cares Kit – a non-alcoholic option launched to comply with the previous ban on local alcohol sales – incudes berry cordial and burnt orange cordial, mixology ingredients, and complementary food samples.
- Gin Tasting Kit features Creation’s wine-infused gins (the Creation Chardonnay Gin and Creation Pinot Noir Gin), tonic water, mixology directions, and complementary snack samples.
- The new Creation Paradoxical Wine and Chocolate Pairing comprises five wines paired with five handcrafted chocolates from a local chocolatier.
Creation partnered with master chocolatier Richard von Geusau from the neighbouring town of Greyton for this initiative.
Regarding the idea of delivering the experience to customers in their own homes, Carolyn said: “Wine tasting is an integral part of the Creation experience and it would have been a pity to deny our clients the opportunity. Never daunted by a challenge, we put our heads and hearts together to invent a campaign that brings Creation to our guests. We even created the non-alcoholic Creation Cares Kit when the second ban on local alcohol sales was announced in South Africa.”
She added: “Customer engagement and feedback is critical for us, and it is particularly crucial at times like this where we cannot travel or have physical interaction with many of our customers.”
Another initiative at the destination vineyard, 120km from Cape Town, is to assign one ‘tasting ambassador’ from the Creation team to each visitor, limiting guest's interaction to that one person and ensuring exclusive attention and engagement.
These are among the reasons Creation Wines was recently declared Great Wine Capitals’ 2021 Global Winner for Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences.
Asked what the award means to her, Carolyn replied: “To me, the 2021 award is all about how we pivoted over the past months. Our team went to extraordinary lengths to mitigate the challenges imposed on wineries during the Covid-19 lockdown and the ban on the sale of alcohol. This happened on many levels: from sourcing materials and upskilling the team to the development of new products and delivery systems. I see the award as recognition for their resilience and courage during a time of great uncertainty and I would like to thank the judges for noticing. Sometimes innovation is born out of adversity; this year was nothing short of a miracle with suppliers, agents, friends and clients rallying around to create our inspired new reality.”
'Sometimes innovation is born out of adversity; this year was nothing short of a miracle with suppliers, agents, friends and clients rallying around to create our inspired new reality'