The buzzword of the moment is experiential.

Businesses are constantly looking to differentiate themselves from the competition and to connect more emotionally with their customers. It is important to offer something more than just a branded product and that can be achieved by creating a unique and memorable brand experience. Black Tomato have established a hugely successful travel company on the back of this and many restaurants and retailers are extending their offering to include courses, talks, stayovers and much more to exploit this fashion.

This Saturday I got to see just such an initiative at the beautiful Moreson vineyard in Franschhoek. We were to attend the ‘Blessing of the Harvest’ where we would create wines the old fashioned way with the team there.

The day started with a glass of bubbly and a small bite to get us in the mood for the whole event.

Plenty of crates to fill in the 35 degree heat

Tackling the vines

There was a sense of really being part of something both fun and fulfilling. I also developed a load of respect when you realise just what a small dent this big group of people made on the overall crop.

Hand cutting the Sauvignon Blanc grapes

One crate of grapes picked and ready to stomp

Once we had filled our crate, we were encouraged to enter the one minute challenge of crushing our grapes by foot…the old fashioned way!

It turns out there is a technique for optimising the amount of grape juice you get which involved various levels of hugging and big feet! Others chose to cheat and bolster their juice levels in other ways in order to win the prize for most juice from their barrel! Clearly I was not competitive enough and didn’t win that prize. Nor did I win ‘best legs’ prize, but better luck next time.

The Moreson team changed the way this part of the process took place this year and for me it was a little bit slapdash. I would have preferred to have stomped for more time (in the shade) and seen more about the whole cycle of making wine. But after our 1 minute stomping and 2 minute liquid collection we were done and sent off to try the professional stuff.

Apparently hugging your partner helps - it's a loving process this wine stomping

Best legs winner...judge for yourself

The added benefit of having this event at Moreson is that it is home of the beautifully appointed Bread and Wine restaurant, run by Tina and Neil Jewell. Neil came over to South Africa from the UK many years ago and has established himself as a leader in the charcuterie business making all sorts of wonderful cured meats. He even does a course if you are interested. And so the final part of this Blessing was to partake in a grand buffet lunch at the restaurant. Once again, for me, there was a bigger opportunity to link the wine and food which would have completed the experience, but Neil certainly laid on a spread.

Bread & Wine

Neil's spread

Overall it was an enjoyable day and fascinating to see that we were surrounded by locals and tourists alike, of all ages from young children to retirees and from around the world. There were also a couple of businesses on a team day which was a great idea. I am always amazed by how people find out about these things but the lesson is that they do. And I guess that is what this experiential marketing is all about.

Whilst I didn’t win the label design competition either, I am looking forward to receiving my bottles of ‘Footsteps’ wine in a years time when it has matured into something more drinkable. Until then, I will hold onto the connection I have with this particular vineyard and there’s a lesson to take from that.