Minister Alan Winde, the Minister of Economic Opportunities, oversaw the cutting of the ribbon to mark the official launch of the recently introduced Franschhoek Wine Tram Double Deck railway trams, on 7 December 2017.
Standing in front of the imposing almost 5-metre tall tram at the the historic Groot Drakenstein Station, Minister Winde was joined by his Deputy Director General, Rashid Toefy; Solly Fourie, the Head of Department of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism; the owners of the Franschhoek Wine Tram, David and Debbie Blyth; media, invited guests and local and international wine tourists.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram General Manager, Brett Garner, acknowledged the “vision and inspiration of the owners of the business, the Blyth family, whose relentless pursuit of the exceptional has inextricably linked the Wine Tram and Franschhoek brands”.
In his address, Minister Winde highlighted that fact that the Franschhoek Wine Tram is repeatedly referenced in the context of local and provincial tourism because of its unprecedented success and the overwhelmingly positive direct and indirect economic impact it has had on the region.
He went on to point out that tourism in the region is growing at 27%, year-on-year, and acknowledged the contribution and value of the Franschhoek Wine Tram in adding to this figure.
Over the past five years the Franschhoek Wine Tram has grown its offering from a short rail journey in a 32-seater open-sided tram visiting just 2 wine estates in the Franschhoek Village, to a service that today spans the entire Franschhoek Wine Route, visiting 22 wine estates, with the opportunity to spend between half an hour to an hour on the 80-seater double deck railway trams as part of a full-day R220 wine tour.
The introduction of the double deck railway trams will allow the Franschhoek Wine Tram to host in excess of 120 000 guests in the upcoming 2017/2018 tourist season.
Being one of the invited media guests, we were lucky enough to experience the double deck trams for ourselves. Climbing on board is like taking a step back in time. The tram is filled with old world charm and antique charisma. The seat backs are moveable in such a way that you can choose to sit facing the direction you choose in order to fully immerse yourself in Franschhoek’s gorgeous country views.
We made stops at Vrede and Lust, Plaisir de Merle, and Allee Bleue. Vrede and Lust offers one of the most beautiful vineyard views set before a mountain backdrop through their floor to ceiling windows. They’ve also made slight changes to the tasting room in the form of more windows and a freer flowing organic space around the greeting counter. Keep a look out for their self-service wine tasting “vending machines” too; the likes of which I’d only seen in Europe prior. Plaisir de Merle offers gregarious garden grounds and a stylish, but quaint and cosy tasting room. Both the owner and the servers make you feel incredibly welcome and at ease. Plaisir de Merle also offered some of my favourite wines of the day. Allee Bleue offers the opportunity to hop on a tractor for the scenic drive down their extensive “driveway” to their tasting room nestled among trees. You’ll want to grab a seat outside here.
For more about Franschhoek Wine Tram’s newest double deck trams, and to book your tram experience, visit http://winetram.co.za/
Images: Natasha Silva