THE art OF bubbly
Champagne’s been shorthand for celebrating since the 17th century – and today, it’s synonymous with quality, luxury and success
The Absa Champagne Festival has been held in Johannesburg since 2002, enthralling invited clients and members of the public alike at the three-night event held at the Inanda Club in Sandton. This annual prestigious fixture on the social calendar provides an unforgettable experience for Absa’s existing and potential clients. This year’s event in November showcased Absa’s wealth business through lifestyle elements – Champagne and fine food – and included, for the first time, a silent auction of artworks and memorabilia to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, marking the centenary of SA’s late, great statesman, Nelson Mandela.
“The Absa Champagne Festival is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to our clients for supporting us in either their personal or business capacities,” says Nomkhita Nqweni, CE of Absa Wealth, Investment Management and Insurance (WIMI), under whose guidance the division’s growth story has gained pace. In three years, assets under management at WIMI surged from R274 billion to R319 billion as at June 2018. That’s 16,4% growth in difficult market conditions. WIMI’s contribution to group headline earnings is now 8%.
“We’ve been able to grow our business because of the clients we have – and this success and investment excellence have been affirmed by the number of prestigious industry accolades we’ve received: the Raging Bull awards for our asset management business, the top rankings in the 2018 Euromoney ratings for our Wealth business and the Batseta Imbasa Yegolide
award for the Absa Trust Company,” says Nqweni.
“Champagne is associated with success and celebration, so it’s fitting that the Absa Champagne Festival gives us the opportunity to join our clients in proposing a toast to successful, long-term partnerships and bringing possibilities to life.”
The festival’s grown over the years and now hosts about 350 guests each evening, who sip Champagne from close to 40 French Champagne houses – the most Champagnes available for tasting under one roof and the only exclusive Champagne festival in SA. No local South African Méthode Cap Classiques are present – only French sparkling wines.
Dr Paul Bayliss, Absa’s Art & Museum Curator, who collects and manages the Absa Gallery comprising about 18 000 artworks, curated the exhibition of African artists for the festival and ran the silent auction for the benefit of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“You don’t need a lot of money to invest in art; you can buy an artwork for a couple of thousand rands. There’s value for everyone,” says Bayliss. The most affordable artwork at the Absa Champagne Festival was up for grabs at a reserved price of R3 500, while the least affordable item was a bracelet, part of the Nelson Mandela memorabilia, valued at R1 million.
The decor was done by the Aleit Group, known for trend-setting event management, with scrumptious food from By Word of Mouth, one of Johannesburg’s top catering firms.
“We’re thrilled that at this year’s festival, our guests had a great time, enjoying champagne while honouring Madiba’s memory in this important centenary year. We’ll forever be grateful to him and the sacrifices he and his family made. Therefore, as Absa, we have a partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation that contributes to honouring his legacy.
“We’ve partnered with it in various impactful initiatives and at the Champagne Festival, through a silent auction, we sought to raise funds to contribute towards causes that were close to his heart – particularly the making of a just society, with freedom and equality for all,” says Nqweni.