Was the Soweto Wine fest thin on quality drinks?

Sociable. Actress Mampho Brescia had a jol at the Soweto Wine fest.

After a brief hiatus which saw its organizers, effectuating a re-branding as well as a change of venue, the 2017 edition of the lifestyle diary lister came back no longer only being a platform showcasing matters vinous – but also featuring craft beer brewers, in addition to traders waring products ranging from grooming, collector dolls, curios and designer clothing.

Having just signed a three year hosting deal with the Soweto Theatre, the move sees the event settling to a third venue after having been based at the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg for close on a decade and then trekking to the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication at Kliptown for the 2015 edition.

One’s loss being another’s gain, the new venue’s manager, Nomsa Mazwai sees the current arrangement as part of her institution’s growth strategy – even as some attendees of the traditionally 3 day affair were vocally critical of the exhibitor content, which one elderly adherent who’s been following the event for around five years, felt was rather thin on the quality of drink brands on show. “UJ was the best, followed by Kliptown – Soweto Theatre, zero!” she protested loudly enough for everyone within earshot to hear.

She had a point since the estates exhibiting numbered less than ten. One could count only usual suspects such as, Fat Bastard, Mhudi – as well as newcomers such as Peter Falke Wines and Survivor.

Few that they were though, some stalls were making a roaring trade and Peter Falke Wines’ marketing manager, Alexa Pretorius declared her lot fairly content with the order of business since visitors to her stand were not only tasting the four reds and three whites on offer – but also taking some home with.

Pretorius’ tipple went for R300 for the highest priced.

The theatre space was widely used as its colour-coded segments hosted a variety of activities such as a wine and food pairing class [at 45 minutes per session], a Standard Bank VIP section which treated its invitees to intimate live music accompaniments to the light edibles and beverages on offer and different musical acts rocking the red theatre space on each of the three days.

Inside the yellow theatre, wine expert, Busi Yende took an enthusiastic bunch of fundis through a six tastes experience in which she paired four wines, viz, Diemersfontein Pinotage, KWV Moscato, KWV Sauvignon Blanc and Imbuko Merlot with biltong, cucumber, cheese, umami, lemon and meringue.

Gasps, laudable exclamations and curious comments punctuated the space as a Friday eventide class seem to grasp what it was being initiated in.

In the outflow area, DStv had a corner adorned with white leather coaches, cocktail tables, a bar with its own stock of decent liquid treat and a large led screen flashing programmes. This particular corner was occupied by well-groomed sophisticates and aptly also had Isibaya actress, Mampho Brescia as a guest on a night out. Spotting a blond weave and dressed in a patterned short pants attire, the socialite exuded class as she caressed a glass containing a KWV blend red, and purred regarding the vibrant atmosphere and lovely company she was immersing her graces in.

On the Saturday, which was the second day of the festival, the DStv lounge was undoubtedly the place to be at as revellers also got to catch a glimpse of their favourite soccer teams on the screen since it happened to be derby time between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

Football, food, wine, friends, and laughter – it certainly didn’t get any better than that combination of social ingredients!

Mentioning food to accompany the tipple, the outside area had stalls a dime. With appetising aromas wafting through the Friday evening damp air, after a heavy downpour, a pop-up establishment named

Listening and tasting. GTA’s ‘Magic’ (in blue jacket) also attended the tasting session at the Soweto Wine fest. All images JACOB MAWELA.

The Wing Republic did a roaring trade supplying a substantial queue with its buffalo wings which came in peri-peri, BBQ, lemon pepper, sweet chilli flavours.

These finger-licking portions were served with potato wedges. The wine sellers needn’t had worried about the edibles merchants stealing a share of wallet from underneath their thunder, since in the culinary sphere, versed gourmets are in the wont of accompanying their chews with liquid wash-downs – and thus it was that bottles purchased from the exhibitors were spotted adorning the dining area tables.

Since organisers evidently permitted competition amongst the traders, grape matters existed alongside the burgeoning craft beer proposition, and at the festival, it manifested in the form of the curiously named, Devil’s Peak Brewing Company.

If the red and white stuff flowed, so did the foamy stuff as the tap was ever on at the brand’s stall, as those manning the space had to keep up with the thirsty throatsof visitors.

Coffee also made hay as a brand named, Notes Coffee Bar, brandishing the pay-off line: come kofi with us – coasted through a menu offering palate sensations such as, Afrikano and Kafemocha.

The par for course stimulant, music was an omni-present feature, be it pumped from the deejays’ decks or from within the theatres. The red theatre had attendees up on their feet in reaction to the beat of Urban Village, whilst the VIP lounge hosted the steadily-ascending, Samthing Soweto and a trio of young and gifted jazz and classic music performers named, Neo Motsatse [who was on violin], Neo Buthelezi [cello] and Keenan John-Meyer [piano].

The three, with a polish belying their student status, issued forth Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson standards as they substituted words with instrumental flourishes. A Standard Bank executive and erstwhile Metro FM DJ, Ethel Nyembe showed up in this dim-lit space and would no doubt, had been impressed with the flow of items.

Not to be left out were the merchandize traders such as Pimville-based clothing label, IIntsizwa Ziphelele, whose co-owner, Mogomotsi Magome declared satisfaction with visitors actually voting with their pockets by snatching ‘ikotini’.

Rebranded with extended times and a new home to boot, the past weekend extravaganza, individual opinions aside, seemed to had performed just enough to endear itself to long term adherents and the format of not only focussing on wine could just as well be in moving with ever-evolving times – and by the conclusion of the next two editions, perceptions may sway in an accommodating direction.

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