Cheers for a good cause

© Cape Times Friday 13th February 2015

What’s on your wine wish list? I’ve just been seeing some Facebook friends winning a single bottle of 1965 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, autographed by the owner, and if that doesn’t mean much to you then perhaps you’ll be more impressed when I tell you it’s worth £9,500 so not your everyday braai-wine! I don’t think I will ever contemplate purchasing such items but thankfully – and I say this without a hint of envy – there are some people who do and they are all congregating in the Cape as we speak.

I’m talking about the AfrAsia Cape Wine Auction, which is taking place tomorrow at Boschendal Wine Estate. The brainchild of Mike Ratcliffe, MD of Warwick Wines, this is an auction of exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list lots with all the proceeds going to a range of worthy causes in the winelands. Beneficiaries include one very close to my heart – the Pebbles Project, which started out assisting children suffering from the consequences of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and which has now broadened its scope to include a range of health and other educational projects. There are only 350 tickets available for the auction and you could register and bid online (I say this in the past tense because tickets have sold out but you could always be ready for the next one if you like) and stand the chance of buying things that money cannot normally buy.

For example – how about a private polo lesson from the RSA national team captain? Comes with a private box at the next match, some nights at a game lodge and all transfers by Bentley where-ere you may want to go. Are you a fan of De Toren’s iconic Fusion V? Then you can get a never-to-be-repeated vertical of 36 bottles including all the individual components of this amazing blend. Private beach villa in the Seychelles? Tick. 12-litre Balthazars from all of SA coolest and hippest winemakers? Tick. Accommodation for you and 41 friends at Le Quartier Francais for an entire weekend? Sure, why not? I read through the list of the lots on offer and it absolutely staggers me to see the generosity from the many partners to this venture who are giving away such important, expensive and often, intensely-personal, gifts in support of great causes.

Last year the Auction raised an incredible R7million for good causes and it is hoped to get into double figures this year. If this isn’t quite your league, then perhaps you can help support worthy causes in other ways. Amorim Cork, who are one of the biggest suppliers of corks to the wine industry (and whose kind hospitality I enjoyed a couple of years ago on a trip to Portugal), are upping their sponsorship of the prestigious Cape Winemakers Guild group. They’ve been supporting their protégé programme with free corks for some years, but the decision has now been taken to donate a percentage of all sales to CWG members, also to the protégé programme which supports and mentors winemaking students from previously-disadvantaged backgrounds. Big users of their corks include Graham Beck Wines, Boekenhoutskloof and Kanonkop.

Edmund Burke, the 18th century Irish statesman, famously said “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” I don’t suppose for a moment that we are all going to bid on the AfrAsia Cape Wine Auction lots this weekend and perhaps we’re not going to buy an awful lot from the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction when it’s held later on this year either. But IF there is a choice and IF we are dithering between two wines, perhaps the knowledge of this generosity, indeed of ALL the many instances of generosity you see displayed by wineries in terms of Fairtrade wines, empowerment projects, education schemes and more, then perhaps that can, and should, tilt us towards choosing those wines and doing our little bit – however little it may be – for something which is right and good.