It was sweet in wine-stylin' Soweto!

Tuesday, 17 September, 2013
The 9th TOPS at SPAR SOWETO WINE AND LIFESTYLE FESTIVAL, in association with Food Network and the Travel Channel, was a sight for sore eyes as 8813 people from Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and even a few from different countries, sipped and danced their way through the festival weekend.

Marilyn Cooper, co-founder of the festival, Cape Wine Master and outgoing CEO of the Cape Wine Academy, said "The core objective behind the TOPS at SPAR SOWETO WINE AND LIFESTYLE FESTIVAL, which remains true today, is to create a platform on which to develop an emerging market of educated and confident wine consumers, and to provide a worthy platform for lifestyle brands to showcase their products and add value to our end consumer experience. This year was our finest festival to date and Mnikelo and I would like to thank everyone who had a hand in making this such a successful and beautiful festival filled with warm-hearted, wine-loving people!"

Jo'burg Tourism, Durban Tourism, Nederburg, Fatti's & Monis, J.C. Le Roux and Massmart were amongst the big brands launching products and campaigns at the Festival, which also included wines, food, an art exhibition, live bands, DJ's and a smattering of celebrities at what has become Jozi's must-attend event of the year.

Despite the sell-out success of the festival from a lifestyle brand and visitor point-of-view, Dave Noble, Gauteng Area Manager of headline sponsor, TOPS at SPAR, believes that some of South Africa's top wine labels are missing big opportunities by not participating in the festival. "If we look at the trend of growth of this festival in the long run, and the increase in consumption in South Africa since the launch of this festival, it is the right thing to do and the right place to be. It was a great success and it was good to see a variety of wines on offer. Going forwards, TOPS at SPAR will work with the organisers and the industry to encourage more of the right wineries to exhibit at this important show. Noting that the audience spans entry-level, first-time wine enthusiasts, and those that have attended for the past nine years and have now developed a more discerning pallet, there is scope for major growth on both the winery sales and consumer touch points of such wines."

Associate sponsor, Food Network and Travel Channel's (Scripps EMEA) senior vice president of content and marketing U.K. and EMEA, Nick Thorogood says: "We were excited to be on-board as Associate Sponsor of the festival again this year. South African wine and food is tantalising, diverse and full of flavour, and we're pleased to be helping educate people within the Soweto region by showcasing the best of the best that the country has to offer."

Phillip Sithole, Head of Durban Tourism eagerly stated that the City of Durban was aggressively marketing in Johannesburg, and utilised the successful TOPS at SPAR SOWETO WINE FESTIVAL as its platform to launch the popular ‘Sunsational Durban' Summer Campaign.

Said Sithole, "Our trade partners were extremely happy with the enthusiastic interest they received, and were overwhelmed with the number of visitors that confirmed Durban for their summer holiday. Durban has also just been voted as the Friendliest City in SA and we are really proud to show off to the country our warm hospitality and sunshine smiles."

Soweto-born Councillor, Ruby Mathang, who is the mayoral committee member for development planning and urban management, officially opened the festival with TOPS at SPAR on behalf of Joburg Tourism. The evening was MC'd by the formidable Metro FM DJ and Idols Judge, Unathi Msengana, and visitors were entertained by the Muffinz, a popular, local band. 

Head of Joburg Tourism, Phelisa Mangcu, said, "Diverse events like this are crucial to promoting Soweto and to using its influence as an important leveraging tool to attract more events, and in so doing, fuelling economic growth and development, job creation and opportunities for the SMME sector. "

Mangcu continued, "The annual TOPS at SPAR SOWETO WINE AND LIFESTYLE FESTIVAL is an integral part of Joburg Tourism's destination marketing strategy, serving to showcase Joburg from a lifestyle and leisure perspective and positioning it as the continent's most exciting metropolitan centre. The fact that our peers in the tourism industry used this illustrious occasion as a launch platform for their Summer campaigns is indeed a testament to this event's significance and stature!"

Moshisi Lehlongwane, Massmart supplier development manager showcased 15 BEE wine brands at the festival and said, "We are delighted to have had the opportunity to participate in the 9th annual TOPS AT SPAR SOWETO WINE AND LIFESTYLE FESTIVAL. It was the perfect space to showcase the 15 of the 19 brands participating in our Developing Wine Brands Programme, which is supported by our Supplier Development Fund. The festival provided a good platform for the brands, not only to sell their wines but to reach new customers, new opportunities and to tell their unique stories. We are proud to associate with events such as this, which help reinforce our commitment to develop local suppliers." 

MasterChef SA Judge, Pete Goffe-Wood, who co-hosted the Nederburg Taste Theatre with Nederburg Winemaker, Danie Morkel, on the final evening, said that he was inspired by the response to his filled-to capacity classes. "Another rocking evening at the TOPS at SPAR Soweto Wine and Lifestyle Festival. It was bloody brilliant! The enthusiasm and interest around wine here is refreshing and honest and I love it."

And so say all of us!
To see images from the event click here.