The time of the grape – harvest festivals in the Cape
Harvest festivals in the Cape: Wherever you look during the grape harvest season (late January to April) there is a harvest festival on. More and more wine estates and wine routes jostle for attention during the time of the bounty of the vineyards, and there is a real sense of harvest time as an event to remember. Suddenly grape picking, foot stomping and a serious amount of wine tasting is very much a part of the annual social calendar.
Winemaking, also known as vinification, has a science of wine and winemaking attached to it, known as oenology, but it is the harvest that has the most romance associated with it, in no small part due to its relationship with the Greek god Bacchus, and the patron saint of wine-growers, if you’re vaguely Catholic, St Vincent. As a result, it is the harvest that often gets the most attention in the process of wine making, and the festival spirit, particularly in recent years in the Western Cape, is something in which everyone can join in …
Spier Wine Harvest festival – 27 February 2010, 10h00 – 16h00
The lawns in front of Eight – Spier’s new ‘farm-to-table’ restaurant in Stellenbosch – are the site of this year’s festival. Wine tastings, and gastronomic delight-laden food stalls will be available for one to create one’s own wine picnic from, where one can eat either on the lawn or around a harvest table alongside the Eerste River. Grape stomping will feature (if you can handle the idea of wine-stained feet) as well as croquet and boulle. All-in-all a rather civilised festival, particularly as there are a number of activities set aside for kids, like face painting and tractor rides through the vineyards, storytelling magicians and more.
At midday the cellar master, Frans Smit, will bless the harvest in the traidional way with a symbolic cutting of the last bunch of grapes, and there will be a band and general merriment, which all sounds rather do-able. You also get to sample two of Spier’s wines and get a special edition wine glass, if that’s your kind of thing. Tickets cost R50 and you can buy them at Spier when you get there.
Robertson Wine Valley’s Hands on Harvest festival – 26 – 28 February 2010
A series of grape picking, bunch sorting, grape stomping, wine and grape tasting, harvest market, making your own barrel of wine, picnicing in the vineyards, vineyard tractor trips, brandy blending experience, making your own verjuice cordial and vinegar, and horse driven wine tasting are yours for the taking. So, don a hat, take a pair of gloves with you (dishwashing gloves work best), slap on the sunscreen, take your camera, and head out to the Robertson valley, only 170 kilometres from Cape Town.
The programme is pretty extensive, particularly as it includes 47 odd wine estates, and you will need to book ahead of time by 24 February. Each wine estate is offering a day of it, so if you have three days to spare, you could get a real feel for wine harvesting. Even with one day to spare, there is something for everyone. Estates like Ashton Kelder offer an all day stomping of grapes and wine tasting for free, whilst others offer picnic baskets or three-course meals for a price per head. Bircon wines are offering wonderful horse rides and a boat trip followed by breakfast, which gives you plenty of time to head off somewhere else for lunch. For more information, contact Elizma Spangenberg or Marylize Mouton – 023 626 3167
OmmiBerg Paarl Round the Rock – 13 March 2010
Another chance to feast on the harvest with a series of activities that include cellar tours, fermentation demos, grape tastings of cultivars, zips around the Paarl Rock in a Cessna helicopter and the tunes of Zinkplaat and other live bands. Each of the thirteen wineries, all situated around Paarl Mountain, offer some sort of harvest activity, whether it is a blending competition with the winemaker, like Laborie Estate, or a professional massage in grape skins at Mellasat Vineyards. It’s nouveau wine at its best, with events at various venues in Paarl. For more info contact Sandra or Annelize on 021 863 4886
Durbanville Wine Valley Feast of the Grape – 21 March
Celebrating the harvest festival on Sunday, 21 March, has particular significance. It is the end of the grape season and the beginning of autumn. Durbanville’s festival too comes packaged with all the juicy events that define a harvest – wine, good food, fine music, picking grapes, grape stomping and all the wine tasting and cellar tours you can pack into a day. This is about the feel, small and taste of the harvest and involves getting your hands, and feet, a little dirty, if you would like to. What makes this festival so do-able is that there are only nine cellars, and Durbanville is that much more accessible from Cape Town.
Estates, like Meerendal, is looking for 50 energetic amateur wine makers to learn all the secrets of wine making with their cellar master, Liza Goodwin, Hillcrest Estate is offering a wonderful afternoon concert, while most of the others offer grape stomping, picking and picnics under the trees. For more info contact Michelle van Staden on 083 310 1228
Wellington Harvest Festival – 20 – 22 March 2010
The 26-member wine route of Wellington, just 45 minutes’ from Cape Town, offers gorgeous scenery and a host of activities, most of which seem to centre around the Bain’s Market at Kleinevallei. Estates like Breytenbach Sentrum offer ‘valiant swart acoustic sounds under the stars’, Diemersfontein Wines are doing ‘eat as much as you like’ days with a feast of buffet-style canapes and bowl foods, Malan de Versailles has a fishing competition with prizes for the biggest fish, heaviest bass etc., Savingnac de Versailles is offering a working still in action, brandy and chocolate tasting by the craft distiller, Roger Jorgensen, whilst another couple of estates, including Upland Organic, are taking part in the Fresh and Local Market at Welgegund in the Blouvlei. Want to know more, contact 021 873 4604
Constantia Fresh Festival – 26 February 2010
It’s not officially a harvest festival, but it falls at the time of everyone else’s festivals, so why not. There is a series of wine tasting on all of the estates in Constantia, followed by extensive dining, at pretty sumptuous restaurants. So for those with a fine palette, not interested in leaving the periphery of Cape Town, this is the festival for you. For more info contact 072 467 5943