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The third annual Gugulethu Wine Festival 2013 attracted close to 5000 people during its two day run on 24 & 25 May 2013, drawing in a bouquet of visitors from various backgrounds, ethnicity groups and income brackets – celebrities, wine connoisseurs, curious locals, wine makers, famous chefs, hipsters and the usual Cape Town festival goers.

Hosted in the heart of Gugs on top of the Gugulethu Mall rooftop parkade – the perfect venue for a swanky jol that ignites your taste buds and leaves you with more friends than you had upon arrival – the Gugulethu Wine Festival is sure to grow in numbers and popularity over the years. It’s only three years old and has already become a hit with both Gugs locals and other Capetonians.

Getting there is as easy as asking for directions – the good people of Gugs are extremely helpful. On your way there you might have to dodge a few free range cows and chickens roaming the streets, but once you’re safely inside the lavishly adorned rooftop marquee, Gugulethu will have transformed into a vibrant and classy affair with funky waiters clearing empty glasses, attentive stall managers pouring wine and an undercurrent of excited chit chatter.

What is really amazing is how much you get for the little you pay – this year R90 got you into the big vino arena and allowed you to taste whatever you wanted for as long as you could walk straight. Armed with a goodie bag and a clean taster’s glass, visitors were able to float from one wine stall to the next, sampling anything from a dry Merlot to a fruity Sauvignon Blanc to a titillating Cap Classique, South Africa’s answer to French Champagne, all whilst jamming to the low-humming Kwaito slash House beats of Yfm (99.2) DJ Linda Mbuso from the Going Buck show.

If you felt like taking a break from schmoozing with the Krone Borealis brass or hobnobbing with the Boschendal crowd, you could simply take your glass of bubbles and plonk yourself down on a comfy chair at the Quay 5 stand and have your hair done, or get a glitzy face paint at the Carioca stall.

For those who felt a little light headed, The Saints ChillZone (opposite the wine tasting tent) was the perfect place to line sloshing stomachs with Mzoli’s famous chops (with his secret mix of herbs and spices), or a gulp of designer coffee paired with an AfroPizza.

A newcomer to the wine industry, and certainly something to look out for when shopping for your next dinner party, is a sweet red wine called Honey Badger from the Douglas Green label. Don’t let the name fool you though, as it contains absolutely no honey – and was chosen simply because of the close resemblance to the flavoursome nectar. It has a piquantly sweet nose, but the aftertaste leans more towards a woody slash musky mix, making this wine a sure buzz at any party.

Food alchemist, beer maker and wine quaffer Pete Goffe-Wood, together with Wilhelm Pienaar, red wine winemaker from Nederberg entertained and educated visitors in the Taste Theatre in intervals throughout the day with tit bits and useful hints on wine pairing. “Often it’s not a case of bad wine that’s the problem, but bad pairing…” says to the dynamic duo. If you don’t want your very expensive bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to taste like fermented soil, don’t serve it with walnuts, or food types that contain walnuts. Equally, the best wine to be served with sushi is a chilled Pinotage, perfectly complementing the soy sauce and wasabi, the two overriding tastes in sushi.

What makes the Gugulethu Wine Festival different from, say a wine festival in the Winelands is the unlikely crowd in conjunction with the raw primal energy that encapsulates a place like Gugs. Being known as a township struggling with poverty and crime, Gugulethu has sure done an excellent job in turning itself around. A big blue welcoming billboard placed right outside the mall reads: Gugulethu, you’ve come a long way. Now let’s go together further. And if there is one thing that the Gugulethu Wine Festival gets right, besides keeping everyone’s glass full at all times, it‘s being the unifying umbrella for the proverbial rainbow nation.

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[Published by MBLife June 2013]