SA Cheese Festival Leaves Bad Taste

A letter from my American friend Zelda after a visit to the SA Cheese Festival

Dear Emile

What a pity we couldn’t see you during our recent visit to the Cape. Everything is looking a-for-away for the 2010 World Cup. The city is beautiful and the winelands were far more splendid than I expected. Of course, the stunning weather we had at the end of April helped!

Thanks for the suggestion to visit the Cheese Festival in Franschhoek, especially the tip to be there early. This was very handy as I had never expected to experience a food and wine event of this expansive nature in South Africa. The products were fantastic and I was especially impressed by the help and advice we received from those working behind the stands.

Your cheddar cheeses are especially brilliant!

Of course, we had a good look at the wine offerings, especially enjoying the Pinotage presence. Zach has not quite cottoned onto this Pinotage thing ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ despite your attempts to convert him ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ but I enjoyed the wines. Then again, I am no missus Robert Parker.

What did upset me was the loutish drunken behaviour of some people at the festival. We were quite disturbed as this was counter to what we had all been experiencing in the Cape up until our visit to the Cheese Festival.

How is it that wine is served to children obviously under the age of 18? (I believe this is your legal age. Ours is 21!) To see representatives from wineries pouring their wines to kids really left a sour taste and is no good advertisement for the South African wine industry.

Besides this we were treated to the unfortunate sight of many young people vomiting next to the public toilets. On the Sunday we were there one young woman had to receive medical treatment in full view of us and other festivalgoers, obviously the result of some alcohol-problem. Probably alcohol poisoning ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ yuck!

As you know, I am no goody-twoshoes and you and I have both partied our asses off on many an occasion. (Remember Tucson in ’88?)

However, as you are in the PR industry and always coming up for the South African wine industry I thought I’d just mention this experience which was really not pleasant. I would like to believe that we chose a bad day when there was something in the air and that South Africans are generally not so irresponsible when it comes to wine festivals. I would especially like to believe that there was some lapse in security and authority, as surely the organisers of the Cheese Festival would not allow such illegal wine-serving?

All in all, South Africa is a great wine country, and I’ll take up your offer of shipping some bottles across.

(Emile replies: Zelda, I couldn’t make the Cheese Festival this year, as you know. I am, however, sorry to hear about your and Zach’s experience. It especially galls me as three years ago I alerted the organisers to the fact that wine was poured to under-aged drinkers. I was told that this was unacceptable and that it would not be tolerated. Unfortunately we are not known for prompt action in South Africa, so just have to hope that somewhere down the line somebody decides to do something about the alcohol situation at the Cheese and other festivals. As you point out, it is a great pity that the image of our wine industry has to be tainted by this reckless and illegal behaviour. Underage drinking and public drunkenness are illegal. Unlike the States however, we seem to be more tolerant. For what reason I do not know.)

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