"We have to drink and drive, because there's no public transport."

Monday, 19 November, 2012
Cathy Marston
"We have to drink and drive, because there's no public transport." It's over ten years since somebody said this to me at a party and when I responded "You're kidding, right?" proceeded to argue the point with me
Drink-driving has been the dirty little secret of many for a long time, but over the last two or three years, there has been a real change in attitude by most people. The boastful/shameful ‘God, I don’t know how I made it home last night!’ has been replaced by just the boastful: ‘So I phoned Smartguyz to come and pick me up.’ And now the wine industry is getting on board and actively promoting non-drink/driving options to its staff and its customers, sending out a feel-good message and trying to change attitudes – because after all, the last thing we want is our customers to kill themselves after sampling our products!

Annareth Bolton from the Stellenbosch Wine Route has been making sure that attendees at her various festivals get home safely for some years now. One of her latest events, the Grape Day Out involving 3,000 students from Cape Town and Stellenbosch, was a huge success for the shuttles. “I promise you, if there were 20 cars parked there on the day, that’s all there were.” She believes “If you give people the option, they will use it” and in her experience, people are more than happy to pay for these options as well. The Stellenbosch Wine Festival in January will once again be running a series of shuttles both from the Waterfront and Tygerberg which will, as Annareth points out, not only be kinder to the environment, but also far safer for all concerned. Other shows and events have provided links to chauffeur-services if a shuttle option isn’t feasible and just the action of advertising the availability of such services, is enough to make people stop and think.

It’s not just customers who have to get home safely. All KWV staff members are encouraged to use drive-home service Goodfellas to take them back home after company events – and the company picks up the bill. Albert Eksteen from KWV says “It’s simply for their own safety, that of the safety of others around them and to further reinforce KWV’s commitment, as a member of ARA, to encourage responsible habits.” And this attitude isn’t reserved for the ‘big boys’ either. Alex Dale from The Winery of Good Hope also uses Goodfellas to get him home after customer dinners and other events “There is simply no valid excuse to drink and drive any more. Especially if you are doing so as part of your functions within a wine business. We factor into our overheads and expenses so many different types of costs, and this is simply another one. As the Owner and key executive of a winery business, it is also a relatively minor cost, not least compared to the possible costs and consequences should one chose not to.”

As somebody who gets invited to quite a few functions, nearly all of which involved drinking, it is always a pleasure when a winery demonstrates their concern for my welfare and lays on transport so I can taste their product without struggling to keep track of all my sips. Whether it’s a bus to De Wetshof for the Celebration of Chardonnay or a drive home service from Steenberg after the launch of Magna Carta, it is always appreciated by me and other members of the press. And – although perhaps it shouldn’t - it makes me feel more pre-disposed towards a winery that demonstrates such a responsible attitude as well.

There are plenty of other wineries out there doing the right thing and I think the message that driving whilst paralytic from alcohol is a bad thing is generally well-known now. The next step needs to be acknowledging that even a glass or two can be too  much and a good enough reason for having a driver take you home. In my opinion, smart wineries should shout more about their efforts to prevent drink-driving, should be celebrated and praised for them and ultimately, I would like to think that this might even contribute to a customer choosing one brand over another. Wouldn’t that just be a good thing all round?

Just so there is no confusion, I should say that I am lucky enough to be sponsored by Goodfellas, something for which I am very grateful!