Oenophile Juliet Cullinan, founder of the Juliet Cullinan Standard Bank Wine Festival – celebrating its 28th anniversary – raises a glass to the humble beginnings of SA’s most prestigious wine event.

From my first mouthful of black forest cake to foie gras, my life has always been about entertaining, promoting and tasting. At two years of age I held my first magnum of Bollinger and by four, I was arranging tables and party food for my dolls.

My father Neil Cullinan first taught me how to identify grape varieties and my grandfather, Ronald Osborn who took me travelling and introduced me to new cuisines.  He told me that he didn’t care if I failed in life, but he did care “if I didn’t try”. Both men taught me to follow my dreams and never settle for anything less.

In my early twenties, I invited a few winemakers to present their flagship vintages at a private wine tasting in Hermanus,. Peter Finlayson from Bouchard Finlayson, Tim Hamilton Russell, a pioneer in the Walker Bay area, Gyles Webb from Thelema, and Norma Ratcliffe from Warwick graced my event with their wonderful wines.  It was a huge success so I decided to launch a wine festival in Johannesburg for 25 producers.  Travel was different then, and this was one of their few annual trips.

The Inanda Club’s provided the debut backdrop.  I remember welcoming wine lovers with a glass at the reception and introducing them to these delicious wines. The agile late Ross Gower did flick-flacks down the centre aisle and the winemakers swopped tables, promoting competitors’ wines while they joked with guests. It was a long tiring night and as we packed up, Webb, Gower and Lowell Jooste called for a beer!

Little did I know at the time I was creating a blueprint for the oldest and most exclusive wine show in the country.  Every wine on offer is hand picked, unique and internationally acclaimed.  We introduce icon wineries to enthusiastic tasters.  This is what makes this event so noteworthy.

As the festival grew, we moved to different venues.  Twenty-five years on, we return to the Inanda Club’s Polo Room.

My children have always been eager to get involved.  At three, my daughter Claire Cullinan Scott pronounced my name as “Juliet Cullinan Wine Fesibal” and at six, she was selling entry tickets and welcoming guests with a “do have a good tasting”.   My son David Cullinan Scott loved lees contact and malo lactic flavours on chardonnay.  Once the winery refused to serve him, as he was underage.  “But I always spit,” he replied indignantly.  My children loved the publicity and I loved having them share the event with me.

Standard Bank propelled the event to new levels fifteen years ago, with their sponsorship and Makro’s excellent “Sip and Shop” service has encouraged great sales with their show prices.

Despite being the oldest and most elite event showcasing fine wines to aficionados, The Juliet Cullinan Standard Bank Wine Festival remains fun.  There is always excitement of meeting the face behind the label, discussing varieties, vintages and maturation.

We have built our reputation on a solid foundation of continuity, celebration and commitment to offer the very best experience for both the winery and the taster.

Join us for the 28th Juliet Cullinan Standard Bank Wine Festival!