Over the weekend of the 12th September, I attended an event in Graaff-Reinet known as Stoep Tasting (#ST20). What an amazing event for wine lovers, where wine farms set up on the ‘stoeps’ of restaurants, shops and hotels for a wine tasting experience.

Wine Makers, predominantly from the Western Cape winelands, use this opportunity to introduce a potential new target market to their wines, presumably in the hope that you fall in love with their wines and buy, buy, buy! If you really love their wine, you also have the option of ordering directly from their wine farm to deliver to your doorstep- a great event to drive the post lockdown initiative #SaveSAwine

Due to work commitments on the Friday, we were only able to drive through on Saturday morning, leaving us a day behind most of the other visitors who were already in the swing of things, enjoying the wine and delicious street food vendors set up for the weekend. After lunch we put on our event wristbands, and, with our event wine glass in hand, we began our wine tasting route, following the stoep tasting map provided.

At our first stoep, a wine farm representative was pouring small tasters for visitors to try the various wines he was showcasing. We stood nearby, hoping he would engage us and give the rundown of how the process works. Perhaps he assumed we should already ‘know the ropes’, with most people arriving the day before, or perhaps he had lost his lust for continually giving the welcome speech.  After a few minutes witnessing him engaging with other visitors at his stand but not us, I concluded that he did not think we ‘looked’ like the type of folk who would buy his (dare I say arrogantly branded) wine. Eventually we managed to, awkwardly, taste one of his wines, by which point I had lost interest in his brand and his stand so was happy to move on.

Sadly, our experience at the 2nd wine table was not much of an improvement. I noticed the guy who was hosting the stand was not a full-time employee of the wine farm, probably was a temp employee through a promotions company and thus lacked knowledge and passion. Despite being a fan of the Sauvignon Blanc I tasted, his lack of enthusiasm did not convince us to make a purchase and we wondered on.

At this stage I was becoming a bit despondent, not feeling the anticipated ambiance of The Stoep event, and feeling very empty handed. Fortunately, wine table number 3 turned things around and what a pleasant experience it was. The friendly table hosts explained the flavours we should be tasting in each wine as they progressed us through their range and suggested the types of food they are best paired with. We were told about the artwork on the wine bottle labels and the history of the farm owners. We were only too excited to put in our order for a case of wine after that! Things continued looking optimistic as we strolled to the stoeps that followed, making the remainder of the day a wonderful experience.

At dinner my husband and I mulled over our encounters at the various stoeps. We agreed that having the best-suited people representing your brand, with the right skill set and attitude makes a world of difference. Otherwise you are wasting your time and money, and put your brand at risk. This is true for every business, small, medium and large; the people you rely on to represent your company ethos, image and to deliver your service, critically affect your success factor. This is an aspect of your business you should never dismiss or take lightly.

On Sunday morning in the lovely little town of Graaff-Reinet, I took the opportunity to go trail running in the karoo and what a beautiful and clean landscape it is. We were hoping to pop into the local famous cactus nursery and a local butchery to leave the Karoo with some local lamb, only to found out all the local shops were closed  – what a lost opportunity! I guess I’ll need to make another trip back there soon.