‘WE LOVE WINE’ FESTIVAL
Friday 26 August 2017
Cape Gate Mall, like Tyger Valley Mall in June, made for an unlikely place for a wine festival. Wine lovers could either visit after work on Friday evening (as I did, R90 ticket) or on Saturday. The 6th such annual festival, it was well advertised on social and other media beforehand. Located in a cordoned off area in the middle of the mall, it was vibrant and well attended. This made worthwhile the efforts of some 24 wineries to bring 100 wines for tasting. Wande Cronje, from the Cape Wine Academy, was giving free tutored tastings on different wine topics. These sessions were full too. It was great to see the interest in learning about wines.
I knew few of the producers represented. Some I had visited (Yonder Hills) and some I had tasted (Stellenbosch Hills, Deux Frères and Peter Bayly Wines). There were some I had heard of too (Bonnievale Wines, Orange River Wines) but the majority were unknown. Many winemakers used grapes bought in from differing areas and were little bigger than garagistes in size and scale. On the other hand, some were global exporters. The ability to taste unknown or unfamiliar wines is always the benefit of a wine festival. Wines were offered for sale too, many at discounted prices.
Organiser Cobie van Oort, from CVO Marketing, explained to me that the exhibitors had been chosen from those who sold their wines in outlets such as Checkers Liquor, PicknPay and Woolworths in the Mall. That made perfect sense. I wondered as I wandered around how many of those attending visit vineyards to taste their wines. In addition, and whether by accident or clever design, the Festival was held close to the end-of-the-month pay day. This helped give an almost festive vibe to the Festival as well as in the Mall.
As usual, I sampled as wide a range of wines from as wide a range of producers as I could: some 16 wines in all styles – sparkling, white, rosé, red and dessert, from dry to sweet, and from low to high alcohol. Unsurprisingly perhaps, fewer red than white wines were available for tasting. Many of the wines were blended and particularly so the white wines. Prices ranged from R25 to R150 with most at R50-R100 per bottle. This matched entry and mid- level wines to the lifestyle drinkers who attended.
I shall not describe each wine I tasted in detail here. Best value for money at just R25 was the entry level Shortwood from Imbuko Wines (Xhosa for ‘admiration for …’) in Wellington. This Chenin Blanc was full of lemon, lime and melon flavours that held through to a decent finish that belied its price. Orange River Cellars, with their impressive range of sparkling through to sweet bottled and box wines, offered a citrus and tropical fruity Colombard that also was very drinkable.
My favourite white wine was the Survivor Sauvignon Blanc from global exporter Overhex Wines, a 4 star Platter award-winner. Served cool at just the right temperature, it showed classic herbaceous and citrus Sauvignon Blanc flavours, matched by crisp acidity.
Calitzdorp-based The Fledge & Co buys in grapes from many areas. The wooded Vagabond interested by its blend of 5 white cultivars that included Portuguese Verdelho (more commonly used to make ‘port’ in the region) and the very rare (24 hectares only in South Africa) Hungarian grape called Hárslevelü.
Bedsbury Wines, from the Breedekloof Valley in Rawsonville, showcased a medium-bodied, slightly shy but flavourful Merlot that was good value at R50 per bottle. Another good value for money Merlot (R55) and one I had tasted before, was the delicious red berry and currant wine from Yonder Hill. I had also previously tasted – at the Tyger Valley Festival – the apricot and grapey Peter Bayly Cape White. I liked it again.
The event was thoroughly enjoyable and fun. I have commented before that a Mall is an unusual venue for a wine festival but it worked. Cobie and her team have done their homework and understand well what their target market like and want. This was evidenced by the many participants who clearly were enjoying themselves. The wines offered were not from iconic or historic producers, nor winners of the highest awards and ratings, but that did not matter. I overheard one woman say to her boyfriend who was struggling to carry 2 cases of wine, “We have enough wine for the rest of the year!”
Inevitably, I compared my experience with the Tyger Valley Festival that is put on by the same organisers. Both events were similar in feel, not too crowded and with just enough space to accommodate all the exhibitors. There was more water and spittoons that were welcome and a learning observation that I made from Tyger Valley. I liked how bench seats were available for those who needed them. The standing tables, however, were rickety and need be stronger and more robust in future.
To finish, I recommend that anyone within the Cape Gate Mall catchment area or Brackenfell or adjacent Northern Suburbs attend the Festival next year. Give the movies a miss for the night and taste some wine. R90 is great value for an evening’s (or daytime) entertainment. The Festival title says it all for me – and all the others who attended – ‘We Love Wine’!
Wines tasted (* bought):
NV Bonnievale Wines Perlé Dawn (Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc) – R40
2016 Haut Espoir Cloudfall (36% Sauvignon Blanc, 26% Sémillon, 17% Viognier, 14% Chenin Blanc, 7% Chardonnay) – R90
2015 The Fledge & Company Vagabond (32% Chardonnay, 26% Chenin Blanc, 26% Viognier, 7% Verdelho, 6% Harslevelu) – R145
2014 Vino Pronto Front Row Chenin Blanc – R120
2015 Bonfire Hill Extreme Vineyards Bonfire Hill (50% Chenin Blanc, 25% Grenache Blanc, 25% Roussanne) – R70
NV Imbuko Wines Shortwood Chenin Blanc – R25
2017 Orange River Cellars Colombard – R50
2016 Overhex Wines Survivor Sauvignon Blanc – R100 FAVOURITE WINE
2016 Deux Frères Blanc de Noir – R70
2016 Winkelshoek Sweet Rosé – R40
2016 Devonvale Shiraz – R120
2013 Nico Vermeulen The Right Red Shiraz – R75
2015 Bedsbury Wine Merlot – R50
2016 Yonder Hill Merlot – R55
2014 Ruitersvlei Cabernet Sauvignon – R70