Standard Bank Fine Brandy Festival, 2010, Sandton, Johannesburg

Standard Bank Fine Brandy Festiva;

Bra, what’s in this sidecar?

There are some advantages to living in Jo’burg. Like having the country’s best brandy distillers trek all the way from the Western Cape to Sandton, so you can taste this classic South African drink. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, consider that a South African Brandy has won the ‘Worldwide Best Brandy’ award 8 times in 11 years at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC). On the world brandy stage – we rock!

Attending the Standard Bank Fine Brandy Festival is like receiving room service on a Hollywood mega-star scale. For a night (and there’s 3 nights to choose from), at a cost of just R195.00, the 5-star Sandton Sun Hotel’s convention centre becomes your luxury suite. Open the mini bar and you’ll discover 26 exhibitors offering 51 brandies to taste, including artisanal brandies made in preciously small quantities, otherwise only available ex-cellar. If you insist on Cognac, you’ll find that here too, but I seriously urge you to give the local stuff a try. You’ll soon taste why the French cling so tightly to their AOC security blanket!

The Standard Bank Fine Brandy Festival feels like Oscar night, complete with its own walk of fame. Everyone is checking everyone’s labels, on booty and bottles, so it helps to know what those impressive sounding acronyms VSOP stand for, and it’s not Very, Special, Old, Pale. V = Vuitton, S = Sean John (Diddy, if you’re old school), O = Oscar (de la Renta, daaarhling!) P = Prada. Manolo is here, and oh, look there’s Jimmy. You can’t be too Choo-sy when deciding what to wear to this brandy festival in Johannesburg. With bling and booze everywhere, it’s hard to tell who’s wearing more gold – the festival goers or the award-winning brandies.

The dress code may be semi-serious, but the mood of the festival is mellow and fun. At this brandy tasting, no one minds whether you’re a bona fide connoisseur or a budding brandy buff, bluffing your way around the show as you trade in your old balloon for a new one.

That’s what’s so great about Jo’burg. Like a brandy spirit, at face value, Jo’burg is volatile, harsh, a little off-putting maybe – a hard-nose business town where tenderprenuers cruise by street children, and hawkers on the corners of the cities’ haute suburbs eke out a living. However, cradle Jozi gently and she’ll warm to you, revealing a myriad wonderful aromas and complex layers, that will have you craving more sips.

To quote the lyrics of a popular rap song, Jo’burg’s a ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do, let’s hear it for Jozi.” Sorry Jay-Z. Must be the brandy.

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