THE art OF bub­bly

Cham­pagne’s been short­hand for cel­e­brat­ing since the 17th cen­tury – and to­day, it’s syn­ony­mous with qual­ity, lux­ury and suc­cess

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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.

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