SOWETO, South Africa, Sept 9, 2007 (AFP) - A festival touting wines to South Africa's black majority drew record numbers at the emblematic Soweto township south of Johannesburg, organisers said Sunday.

The two-day Soweto Wine Festival which ended late Saturday was attended by more than 90 wine makers and 4,000 visitors, mostly youths aged between 18 and 30 years, the organisers said.

South African blacks are partial to beer and brown spirits although the country is the world's ninth biggest wine-producer and accounts for 3.3 percent of the global market.

"This latest show has shown that the festival has really grown over the past years," Marilyn Cooper said.

"A total of about 1,500 people attended the first show in 2005, 3,000 last year and more than 2,000 on the first day of this latest show," she said.

"It is a wonderful experience," said Cooper, who is the managing director of the Cape Wine Academy.

Busi Yende, a course coordinator at the academy, said that the 2007 show was the best ever.

"We improved on logistics this year, the show was better publicised and we also have many big sponsors, unlike in the past editions," she said.

Participants tasted wines from more than 800 labels on display at the show staged inside a hall in the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg.

"I tasted wine for the first time at the show and I love the experience," said a 20-year-old university undergraduate at the event.

"It is a never-to-be-forgotten experience," said another female student.

The main sponsor for this year's festival was the Standard Bank, one of the country's three major banks.

Soweto, South Africa's biggest black township, is home to more than 1.5 million. An uprising here in 1976 was a turning point in the black liberation struggle against racist white minority rule which ended in 1994.

Ntsiki Biyel, 29, the country's only black female vintner, said she hoped the festival would encourage "responsible wine-drinking and appreciation among black South Africans."


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