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May 30, 2012

My Gugulethu Wine Festival experience

A festival-goer enjoying a glass of wine, while a winemaker educates her on his product.

After spending last Saturday night soaking up the wine and atmosphere at the second annual Tops Gugulethu Wine Festival in Cape Town, any lingering suspicion I had that the event might be a slightly stuffy affair was well and truly dispelled.      

Wine festivals can sometimes be a little staid and reserved, but hats off to organisers and co-founders Mzoli Ngcawuzele and Lungile Mbalo for infusing their celebration of the vine with a genuine African party atmosphere.

Myself and a group of festival-goers arrived in Gugs (as Gugultheu is called by locals) at around 17h00 via a shuttle bus from the V&A Waterfront, laid on by Cape Town Tourism, and even at that early hour the township venue was heaving with local people keen to try some of the 250 wines on show.

According to Mzoli, the idea behind the festival, which took place on the rooftop of the township’s shopping centre, the Gugulethu Square Mall, is to allow people who live in Cape Flats’ communities to experience the Western Cape’s finest wines on their own doorstep, in their own vibrant and diverse style. 

Velma Corcoran, marketing director of Cape Town Tourism, with Mzoli Ngcawuzele, co-founder of the Gugulethu Wine Festival.

Mzoli has become a bit of a legend around the Cape over the past few years, courtesy of his famous restaurant Mzoli’s Meat, which has broken down racial barriers and drawn people from all backgrounds to its doorstep in Gugs.

And it seems he has once again worked his magic with the Gugulethu Wine Festival. Is this the most fun, vibey and diverse wine festival in the Western Cape? Well, I guess that’s up to each individual to decide. 

But consider this before making up your mind: where else could one find mainstream radio DJs and the Gugulethu tenors providing musical entertainment at the same time? There seemed to be something for everyone.

Over the course of the evening I talked to many people about their impressions of the festival, but Bradley Ngabane and his partner Samela Mnguni from Wynberg summed the evening up best.

The Gugulethu Wine Festival, they said, offers many South Africans their first chance to develop a love affair with a spectacular product produced on their own doorstep.

“It’s all about education,” explained Bradley referring to growing the local wine consumption market, “so events, such as this, are the key. Normally, I wouldn’t drink a lot of wine but I have to say the more you drink it the better it gets!” A man after my own heart.    

From a foreigner’s perspective, the combination of the traditional wine festival with the African overtones is intoxicating, if you can forgive the pun, and a must for those who want to experience township life while tasting some of the best wines in the world.

Below are some images from the wine festival:

The Gugulethu Tenors enthralling the crowd with their performance.

Mpho Matlola, Kagiso Matlola and Ziyanda Nongogo enjoying the festival.

Bradley Ngabane and Samela Mnguni sampling the wine on offer.

All images courtesy Bill Corcoran


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