The festival is just way too crowded and while there was every description of people there, it was mostly young students everywhere you looked. It was almost impossible to get a taste of wine as you had to queue at each stand and then you couldn’t ask questions about the wine or learn anything as you needed to move out the way for the next person.
After eventually becoming frustrated, we decided to relax outside and enjoy a bottle of wine and soak up the sunshine. Finding a space to sit was impossible, so we found a space on the grass. I went off to try and buy a bottle of wine. You may wonder why I say try, it’s because it was definitely not easy. You can’t buy wine at the stands, only from the central ‘bottle store’ (to take home) or from the central bar (to drink there). However, the queue for the bar reminded me of trying to get a beer at a concert. It took about 20 minutes to get served, and they had run out of most of the wines. I managed to get one of he last bottles of cold white wine but it was not even 2pm yet so for the rest of the afternoon people could not buy cold white wine and they also ran out of ice even before I got to the bar.
What should have been a relaxing afternoon activity turned into a very stressful afternoon. I was quite happy when the time came for me to leave. I tried to use the toilets on my way out but there were so few of them the queues were miles long. In fact, guys were urinating against the wall behind the school building. I can’t imagine the school would be too excited about that.
I have this same complaint with many other festivals too. The tent at the recent Franschhoek Bastille Festival was too crowded as well. It’s a common problem and something needs to be done.
My suggestion is that there needs to be a different experience for the more discerning visitor. The festival could offer different experiences on Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday remains as it is now, a big jol and the Sunday is for those who are actually interested in the wines and in a relaxing experience. The tickets for Sunday would be more expensive and the wines on offer could also be of a higher calibre.
Alternatively, one of the three tents could be a ‘VIP’ tent with the high end wine labels and additional seating, etc. Tickets which include access to this section cost extra and there are a limited number.
I don’t know if these suggestions are feasible, but I would suggest something similar for a lot of other wine events. I must admit that the organisers did try to move the students away from the main tent by having a ‘party’ tent further away with music and more seating, but I don’t think it was enough.
I hear that there are changes planned for the Stellenbosch Wine Festival, so my suggestions may be irrelevant. All I know is, if it’s the same next year, I’m avoiding it.