While I've had a small amount of hospitality experience in the past (including a stint at a silver-service restaurant) I still consider myself an absolute novice when it comes to hospo. I'm telling you this because after a pretty monumental face plant at Saturday's Winefolk event – where I smashed 4 plates and gashed my shin open on an ornamental metal trolley – I felt like I needed to take a good hard look at the current state of our events. If you’ve never been to a Winefolk event, I’ll take a minute to quickly describe them. The first noticeable feature is the ‘look’. We put a lot of time into thinking about where to host our pop-up tastings and what they look like. As soon as you arrive we want you to feel like you’ve stepped into a special occasion. We take bits and pieces from nature to decorate our spaces and try our best to co-ordinate the deco with the season. We like natural light, or soft light – from candles and festoons. We like the little details and simple design. We put a lot of energy into creating this kind of environment because we think it helps us establish the vibe, which is meant to be, for lack of a better description, special and relaxed.
I started hosting these tasting events because I wanted to meet other wine-lovin’ people. I had been to a few tastings prior and, without meaning to sound too critical, I just found them to be a little stale and kind of intimidating. I thought it was a real shame to be tasting such incredible wines but feeling uncomfortable by the atmosphere.
So along with my wine buddy from university, Ben, we started organising tasting events in random places around Central Otago. Neither of us really knew what we were doing. We rallied the people, the funds to buy the wine, and got everyone to bring along a dish of food to share with the group. From the very first event, it has never felt like “work”. I have never worried about pouring wine over someone’s hand or bumping people with my boob while serving their food. Even now that I’m hosting complete strangers and have world-class chefs preparing our food, I’m not nervous about my hospitality skills, because I treat people like my friends and vice versa.
When I had my ‘accident’ on Saturday I wasn’t the slightest bit embarrassed. People left their seat at the table and helped me clean up. We all laughed together and continued having a good time. To me, this is the definition of hospitality: reciprocity of kindness and generosity. Winefolk events are not refined, or anywhere near perfect. Maybe you’ll find a finger smudge on your wine glass, or use the same cutlery for every course because we don’t have the budget for multiple sets. What’s important is that we’re all there for the same reason – to drink good wine, eat good food and have a great time together.