The idea of having a wine festival in Soweto was born around a braai when one of the founding members, Mnikelo Mangciphu, found herself drinking wine out of a Soweto Beer Festival glass. The idea was a good one for lots of reasons. In order for the South African wine industry to maximise its local market meant that this sector was obliged to start marketing wine to the black market where the perception was that beer is the preferred drink. So the first Soweto Wine Festival came into being in 2005 where it was attended by 1500 people and 72 wineries.
Since then, the Soweto Wine & Lifestyle Festival has given birth to the first Wines & Spirits Emporium in Soweto, Morara. All the wines exhibited at the Soweto Wine Festival are available for sale at the Morara Wines and Spirits Emporium. I chatted to Marilyn Cooper, the other co-founder of the Soweto Wine Festival about the statistics of the Festival. The first time I attended was in 2009 when 5000 visitors were accommodated and since then the layout of the venue has been strategically planned to maximise numbers at an upper limit of 9000. Because of the strategic changes there were only 64 wineries present, but these wineries had over 800 wines available for tasting. Future growth will need to see a new venue being used, or radically different arrangements being made. I think that it is very exciting to have outgrown one’s venue in only a decade, showing just how much the need for this particular venture actually is.
When I attend wine festivals and exhibitions now, I try to develop a proper agenda for myself before I go so that I can use some rational basis for my tasting, failing which I tend to zig-zag around tasting a little of this and a little of that all haphazardly – a state which doesn’t really work well for me. The Soweto Wine & Lifestyle Festival provide attendees with a Wine Buying Guide which has place for tasting notes. I find this a very useful feature. However, the whole point of me mentioning this to you is that this time I focused on ‘pink drinks’. I am given to understand that pink drinks are becoming increasingly popular, but the real purpose of my interest in them at this time is my personal Breast Cancer Awareness Month project. My mother died of breast cancer in 1975 followed by her sister and her mother, both with breast cancer. Breast cancer runs in the female line and there is a strong family link. Women who are, like me, childless have a greater risk of getting breast cancer than other women, so it the whole awareness of breast cancer speaks to me. This year in October I will be featuring ‘pink drinks’ on my blog in October as my small part of this awareness campaign. There is an amazing variety of pink wines and pink cocktails. Keep reading my blog in October for a look at several of them. In the meantime I got to taste one of the wines that is very popular at the Soweto Wine & Lifestyle Festival, namely 4th Street. 4th Street has a pink wine, very sweet. When one tastes the wine one gets a voucher to have one’s hair, nails or lips “done”. It is a lovely part of the festivities and I enjoyed interacting in this particular way.
City Press tried to sell me a subscription to one of the best newspapers at the moment – yes, City Press, obviously, but speaking from many years of experience as a flat dweller, I am suspicious of promises of deliveries to a home address in a block of flats with security. There is no way for the person making deliveries to get in easily, so the paper gets tossed into limbo. Also on the media front, DSTv’s Travel Channel and Food Network were at the show, advertising their wonderful programmes. Reza Mahammad and Siba Mtongana both feature in the programme. Watch out for Siba Mtongana’s show will will be airing soon on DSTv Channel 175.
One of the things I was specifically invited to attend was the new hospitality programme run by Crucible Events. Originally designed for the corporate market to allow businesses the opportunity to treat their clients to something completely different, this has also been opened up to the public. I went along to see what one gets for R1748 (including VAT), a fair whack of money, although apparently on the low side for corporate VIP entertainment. For starters it includes entrance to the Soweto Wine Festival itself. Then one has the opportunity to chill in a semi-private marquee lounge with a see-through roof. Joburg is too light polluted to make star-gazing an option, so this feature is wasted on evening events. The ambience is smart and pleasant.
Staying on the subject of the hospitality lounge, there is a five course meal and wine-pairing. I was advised that this was tapas style, but I visualised something more akin to the food and wine pairing theatre (the pre-publicity spoke about food theatre) inside the Soweto Wine Festival. I spent some time chatting to executive chef Nigel Crowe of Season to Taste. The menu changes each night of the Festival, probably to accommodate those people who spend all three nights at the Festival. On the first night we started with a purple wild fig and goats cheese salad paired with a wooded chardonnay, followed by truffle wild mushroom espresso (soup) with shiraz. Then followed the highlight of the meal, Scottish salmon with either rose or an unwooded chardonnay (we had two servings of this), followed by fillet with tagliatelle and vegetables with raspberry demiglaze. This was served with a Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon. Dessert was a white chocolate and thyme mousse. We cried off the wine with which it was paired, settling for a soft drink in its place in the absence of coffee in the hospitality tent. The wine aspect was disappointing because I, as a wine novice, had been hoping to learn a few things from a sommelier trained by the Cape Wine Academy. We were promised some funky entertainment by African gypsy rocker, Nancy G, who played the guitar and sang (both absolutely magnificently and very accessibly) while a visual artist created the most amazing art with sand projected onto screens. I loved the entertainment which was classy, unusual and … well, as the advertising said, “funky”. Anyone interested in purchasing tickets to the hospitality lounge can contact Kirk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Wine Lounges are large stands, mostly with place for people to sit and relax. Tops at Spar, the main sponsor, had a friendly crew, as did most of the other lounges sponsored by J C le Roux, Pongracz, Nederburg, KWV, Quay 5, The Saints (and their girls looked ever so cute), 4th Street already mentioned and Carioca. Honeybadger, DGB Merlot, Robertson Winery, Vodacom, DSTv, City Press, San Parks, Ezembevelo KZN Wildlife, Gauteng Tourism, Durban Tourism, Travel Channel and Food Network all had lounges as well.
One should probably not buy a bottle of wine based purely on the name (although I have done so in the past and almost certainly will do so again), but the name I liked the most was The Motorcycle Marvel (Nederberg 2009 from the 5600 hundred series). The only non-pink wine that I tasted outside of the hospitality lounge was The Chocolate Block – a ‘Wine With Secrets To Keep’, a blended wine from Boekenhoutskloof in Franschoek, a wine which is currently very popular.
Salute! Cheers! Gesondheid! Tchin Tchin! Prost!