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THE countdown has begun – there are 37 days to go before the doors open on the 37th annual Mercury Wine Week, the province’s premier wine event being held at the Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World.

It means another year has passed; the cellar purchases from the last fun-filled evening have been drunk and the new vintages are making their appearances on the bottle store shelves – and on the exhibitors’ tables eagerly awaiting patron experimentation.

Since 1979 this annual occasion has provided Durban with the platform to host the country’s leading wine producers, estates and players and this year new and experienced wine lovers can again thrill and challenge their noses and palates.

Harnessing the long-standing relationship with the Suncoast, The Mercury Wine Week will be held at the beachfront jewel between August 27 and 29. However, there is a twist this year with an additional show being introduced on the Saturday afternoon.

Returning for the second year is the hugely popular Grindrod Wine Theatre experience – three sessions for each show where different winemakers have a 15-minute platform before private audiences in an intimate and information-rich setting.

Entry to the theatre is included in the ticket price, but each session is limited on a first-come, first-served basis to 30 people – and the topics are guaranteed to add another dimension to the wine-tasting experience and knowledge sharing.

The Mercury Wine Week annually brings together nearly 100 exhibitors in a glittering marquee under the African skies to offer wine lovers a magnificent display – from old favourites like Beyerskloof, Delheim and Meerlust to edgier experiences like La Vierge, Post House and Middelvlei.

There is also the opportunity to save the rhinos one wine bottle at a time with Mount Vernon’s Rhino Tears range that donates R15 per bottle of wine sold to the SANParks Honorary Rangers, an organisation dedicated to fighting the war on these beautiful prehistoric animals.

The venue promises the peace of mind that comes from ample secure parking and the possibility for a night out with a range of restaurant styles and price brackets from which to choose. This is the ideal opportunity to expand on the wine knowledge gained last year by challenging the winemakers as well as trying out the new labels seen but not yet purchased.

It is a chance for everyone wanting to learn about wine culture to dip their toes into the water in an informative and fun fashion.

However, drinking and driving can never be condoned – and that is why The Mercury Wine Week has entered an agreement to have BuDDys Designated Drivers on call during the festivities. This way you can indulge in the experiences and still get home legally, safely and without risking either your life or those of your fellow Durbanites.

Beyond the frivolity and wine experimentation, The Mercury Wine Week has always had its heart in raising funds for the Hibberdene Children’s Home. Situated on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, this project provides underprivileged, often orphaned, children with the experience of a seaside holiday.

A significant amount of the money raised annually is donated annually to the project to ensure these children can frolic in the waves, build sand-castles and be enriched by memories of a holiday because members of the public enjoyed an evening of wine-tasting.

Tickets cost R120 per person and can be purchased from Computicket or at the door. Show times are Thursday and Friday 5:30 to 8:30pm and Saturday noon to 3pm and 6:30 to 9:00pm.