The prequel for the Juliet Cullinan Standard Bank Wine Festival started 27 years ago in Hermanus with my first wine tasting at home. Norma Ratcliffe, first wine lady of Warwick, Peter Finlayson, pioneer of the Pinot, Thelema’s Gyles Webb, and the late Tim Hamilton Russell of Walker Bay, were among the cellar masters that served their flagship vintages to 40 guests straight off the beach.
Tasting festivals in Johannesburg followed and well do I recall welcoming guests into the Inanda Club ballroom with a flute of MCC. Those were heady days when around 30 winemakers shared jokes, swapped tables, and promoted competitors’ vintages. Ross Gower of Klein Constantia did flick-flacks down the center aisle, while Lowell Jooste, now making wines in California, called for a beer!
Attire graduated from Boland Coetzee’s shorts and bare feet to John Goschen’s stylish black jeans and Ken Forrester’s bright bow ties. Perfumes and aftershaves were frowned upon but spitting was encouraged.
Time changes in the blink of an eye. Ross Gower and John Goschen have passed on and I went from being the youngest wine writer to one of the last remaining. Yet my love for the vine and those who craft their unique vintages feels deeper than ever. The inspirational world of wine has always been mine.
Standard Bank propelled the event to new heights with their sponsorship 17 years ago and the Festival, once limited to established connoisseurs, began to attract young millennial wine lovers and foodies. Sons of cellar masters took over from their fathers and each year brought new features. Today, the Juliet Cullinan Standard Bank Wine Festival in its distinguished Summer Place setting, continues to be exclusive with our wines still among the finest and our tasters as keen.
Only now, it’s all about the experience and a new look at flavour profiles via interactive wine games. Gratification is instant, food is gourmet, and layers of complexity or age are summed up in millennial tweets about “wow wines” or “terrific taste”.
The Juliet Cullinan Standard Bank Wine Festival continues to showcase fewer than 50 of the finest producers, which makes every winery important and allows guests to taste a wine from each. I invite you to explore with me the talent of Cape winemakers at the Festival and enjoy sharing a glass of the finest among friends.