We used to holiday in Hermanus in Southern Cape Province, South Africa. I would spend days visiting wineries and tasting new wines. The wine fraternity is small and welcoming and soon these people became my friends and mentors.
I decided to introduce these icon wine producers to social friends at a wine tasting at my parents home. I invited a few winemakers to present their flagship wine. We had Peter Finlayson from Bouchard Finlayson, Tim Hamilton Russell, a pioneer in the Walker Bay area, Gyles Webb from Thelema and Norma Ratcliffe from Warwick. I’d hired trestle tables and chairs from the local church and laid out one long tasting table to seat eager 40 short-and-T-shirt-clad guests. In common with best international practice, I had laid on tasting sheets so the guests could rate the wines, and laid out the rows of glasses of wine for them to taste.
Each winemaker presented his wine and discussed its aromas and nuances. Everyone loved the experience, which offered a new spin on the Hermanus cocktail circuit.
Shortly after the success of the event, I saw the value of promoting these fabulous wines to people in Johannesburg. The “festival” was more like a large tasting featuring producers who rolled up from the Cape to present their wines. It has grown since then but remains small, elite and focused.
Today it is the oldest running, premier festival featuring the finest wineries in the country.