Wine shoppers paradise
As they say in black circles, it all starts in Soweto - hence it is renowned as a trend-setter
THE annual Soweto Wine Festival has come and gone, and with it an era when beer and spirits totally dominated township revelry unchallenged.
More than 8,000 people attended the three-day event at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto Campus at the weekend.
With 900 wines to taste from the top cellars of the Cape winelands, the idea of running the gauntlet of well-stocked stalls in the tasting hall initially seemed daunting for the 1,500 wine lovers during the first day of the show last Thursday.
Not even broody weather could dampen their spirits as they braved the hailstorm. A few swigs shook off the chill in the weather.
When 3,000 visitors pitched the next day, Friday, there was a quiet panic among some winemakers, who wondered whether they had brought along enough stock.
By Saturday the revelry had reached heady spells as the venue heaved with 3,500 tasters, prompting the organisers to put up sold-out signs.
Marilyn Cooper, co-founder of the festival with Soweto businessman Mnikelo Mangciphu, gushed at the huge turnout: "To be honest, this festival is no longer about the numbers, it is about wine and people finding the wine they love".
True, the festival combines three elements: the food and wine education experience, a carnival-like fun hangout as well as a wine shopper's paradise.
The organisers say research conducted over the eight years of the event's existence revealed three types of consumer groups emerging. First, casual wine consumers "who like the taste of wine but drink it infrequently because they are intimidated by the idea of choosing and buying it or see wine as a drink for special occasions only".
However, they say, this pool has been decreasing over the past five years.
Second, a burgeoning, trendy group of wine consumers attracted to wine "but want it to be fun to buy, to fit with their lifestyle and to meet their desire to always be seen with what's new and trendy".
Lastly, the young black female consumer representing a group that is "increasingly drinking wine and making purchasing decisions".
An interesting development is the growing international interest in the event. This year, DStv channel, Food Network, from Britain, was co-sponsor of the event.
And crowds attending the festival are increasingly cosmopolitan in outlook, with a smattering of overseas tourists tucking in for the fun. As they say in black circles, it all starts in Soweto - hence it is renowned as a trend-setter.
The Gugulethu Wine Festival, now in its second year, owes its birth to the Soweto event - and so too does the Umlazi Wine Festival to be held in the Durban township in March next year.
For the first time the event featured tourism in its repertoire - two tourism arms promoting Cape Town and Durban to potential tourists.