Melvyn Minnaar: Whassup, Fleur du Cap?

By , 6 April 2022

The 57th Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards took place on Sunday, 22 March on the lawn in front of the Nederburg Wines Manor House in Paarl. The presitgious annual Awards are for professional productions staged in and around Cape Town. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams.

A truly star-crossed weekend came to pass last week and a fair amount of good wine joined the fun. This person wasn’t going to miss it for the world.

Saturday night saw the Silwerskerm local movie awards handed out in a most worthwhile annual mini film fest in Camps Bay. Sunday night was, of course, Oscar Night, and also, on M-Net, the ceremony for the Fiesta awards of South Africa’s art festivals’ best. But the best party of all was that night at good old Nederburg in Paarl.

Excuse for a moment the possible wine brand confusion, but let’s applaud the physical comeback after the lockdown for the fun of the yearly Fleur du Cape theatre awards. This year, last Sunday, under a great tent, a red carpet away from the stately Nederburg manor house, the creative clan gathered. The white façade glowed in the setting sun, a fitting decor set-piece for the party down the lawn.

Ah, the frolic. Nobody takes enjoyment to a higher level than a bunch of theatre people. The portable wine bar was popular, well supported. The chat was abuzz, just enough volume to the live music.

Of all Distell’s cultural sponsorships over the years – the Fleur du Cap honours were presented for the 57th year (it had a tobacco name/brand in the earliest days, another story for another time) – these are probably the most appreciated and welcomed.

The warmth of the audience cheers and acclamation was particularly heartening this time: theatre folk et al live simple, survival lives most of the time and the past two years have been difficult, very difficult. So the financial reward (it isn’t bank-breaking) is most welcome. But so is the acknowledgement of their work and effort. Art is a darn challenge.

The annual event has, up to now, been presented in one of Cape Town’s theatres on the step-out Sunday night (the one day of the week, drama people usually don’t work on stage). Last weekend’s do at Nederburg was different, inventively original, and a true Midsummer’s Night picnic of pleasure.

Local musical talent provided the interludes, no highbrow attitudes intruded as lifetime achievements were honoured: Fatima Dike, Janice Honeyman, Sandra Prinsloo. And when the impressive Thandeka Mfinyongo with her long green locks and humming indigenous bow took to the stage with Kaylin Levendal Ndhlovu, magic was spun over the entire crowd. 

Earlier, in one of the event’s more serious rituals, all those in the business who had died the past two years were named and remembered. The heartfelt accompaniment was lovely songs by the Bosman Adama Farm Choir from the wine farm on the other side.   

One would imagine, given the theatrical association over so many years and the goodwill, that the Fleur du Cap brand is firmly embedded in the ambience of the community it sponsors, Yet, it seems that Distell hardly work at marketing that link. Of all the Distell brands, Fleur du Cap has been niche pitched and yet it seldom follows up on that cultural link.  In the past the name denoted prestige. Now it seems it doesn’t know what it wants to be.

Years ago, it had a great annual artwork-on-the-label series with top-notch wines. That was ditched though it had the potential to establish a specific Fleur du Cap public art collection. (How savvy plugging the cultural kudos?)

The name itself punts suggests classic, but are the wines marketed and distributed according to that pitch? In fact, do Fleur du Cap wines have any consumer image right now?

At the sunset, star-crossed garden party, we sipped a delightful aged chenin blanc under the Series Privée label. (The merlot, also under that banner was a tad tired.)

To be honest, it was my first encounter of that specific name on the label. Where have you been Fleur du Cap, where are you going? (And labelling wines “Fleur du Vie” is just foolish.)

  • Melvyn Minnaar has written about art and wine for various local and international publications over the years. The creativity that underpins these subjects is an enduring personal passion. He has served on a few “cultural committees”.

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