Wine Festival Etiquette for Dummies – In a distinctive David Attenborough voice:
Rising from the Covid dessert an old prey makes its resurgence after months of poor pickings. Camouflaged by good intent the boutique hotel, game lodge and small business entrepreneur (broker, hairdresser or fire-fighter) launch their exciting wine festival. Precariously the starved wine farm approaches the Oasis of waiting consumers hoping to drive sales and re-enter the oversaturated market.
The wine festival organizer lies in wait between the bushes humbly asking a “small fee” to partake in the event with a percentage of sales for management and exposure to such a marvellous event.
The wine farm does not yet realize that the wine festival owner has invited another 25 farms, totalling over 300 wines for the unsuspecting pallet and limited to only 300 tickets!
The likelihood of recovering travelling expenses, stock costs and vendor fees slowly diminishing for the wine farm, the festival owner feasts on a tidy net profit (bigger than a brand new Suzuki swift) will be quaffing on some free stock in the corner of the garden.
With restrictions lifting there has been an immediate resurgence of wine tastings and wine festivals to supply the insatiable need of consumers to get out and have fun.
Though not all festivals are created equal all of them offer the opportunity to explore your pallet and dive into the world of fine wine at an affordable price.
Whether the winemakers get the required return on investment you are more than guaranteed to get more than your money’s worth for any wine evening, festival and informal tasting. So rather than rant about the love lost for the gatekeepers of the consumer market here are some rules and advice for festival season.
Rule number 1
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most of the winemakers, agents, reps and brand ambassadors love what they do and sharing knowledge. It is a privilege to talk to you about the wines and artistry that went into making them.
This is a job that is certainly not done for money but for passion however if you do encounter a less enthusiastic presenter I encourage the following: throwing ice at them, setting the table alight or more reasonably messaging the owners of the farm and avoiding the brand until more effort is made. Questions to avoid:
- Can I pour ice into my red wine? Yes, you absolutely may enjoy it as you please and thank you for supporting us!
- Can I order online? Yes, you may but the person in front of you benefits from the sales on the day so please support him/her/they/their (and other relevant pronouns).
- Are you available in my local favourite eatery? No due to numerous reasons please ask them to support boutique farms and stop copying each other’s wine lists like high school jocks.
- Is the wine dry? Most wines we make are and if it’s not we will tell you in a second.
- Can I buy wine from you today? You better.
- Are you friends with David from this farm or Allan at that brand? Yes but that’s really not why I am here have the Sauvignon and move on.
Rule Number 2
Drink the water it saves lives. Wine tasting is a seductive mistress. She lulls you into a false sense of security like a Nile crocodile lying patiently close to the edge of the water. While you are enthusiastically sipping and asking questions passing from one Chardonnay to the next Shiraz you are consuming much more than you would normally.
And while the stories relating to the end of a festival, I once stole a tractor, are great fun to tell later poor behaviour and a car accident can ruin a great day.
My advice? Two sips of water one sip of wine and show those wineries what your liver is made of. Also, it’s best to Uber and blocks the number of your ex for the day.
Rule Number 3
Say thank you. Whether it’s the owner of the farm or the promoter asked to stand in for the day it’s much harder work than it looks. Typically many hours on your feet with little or no chance to go to the bathroom or eat it’s a labour of love.
The best way to say thank you is to spend more at the stall than at the local retailer. Also, bargain a bit, most farms will make you a deal if you buy for a collective group. I love hearing what price if I take 10 cases.
And then lastly while I don’t agree with all the festival organizers most of them are passionate and have also been through some very difficult times. Give them a great review, go stay at their lodge or support his workshop and be thankful you can have all you can drink Saturdays for R 150…
Wine Festivals For Dummies