Having a wacky good weekend in Robertson

06 June 2011  by Carla van der Merwe, WINE.CO.ZA
My first visit to the Wacky Wine Weekend festival in Robertson led to a greater appreciation for supporting local produce and also showed me some warm hospitality.
I started my journey to Robertson in the early morning of Thursday, 2 June 2011. The first stop on my Robertson itinerary was a visit to Rooiberg Cellar’s where I had a candid conversation with Cellar Master Andre van Dyk who fondly reflected on how the festival had evolved over the past eight years and how it had aided in the change in perception of Robertson wine.

Van Dyk continued that Robertson was always seen as a “bulk wine producer”, but that the decision to market Robertson “as a valley and no longer as individual producers” has helped to highlight the quality wines that the area produces. Van Dyk also adds that “the quality of wine in Robertson has improved through the use of viticulturalists” and that “classification is done in the vineyards, by an external panel who decides on the classes for each block and they are managed according to their classification”.

My next stop took me to Rietvallei Estate which boasts six generations of winemakers and the oldest block of Red Muscadel in South Africa (the block was planted in 1908). I had the chance to talk to general manager and winemaker Kobus Burger and marketing manager Colyn Truter. Burger said that he was looking forward “to a more relaxed and wine focused festival” and that there would be “a relaxed vibe with food and wine at Rietvallei”.

With regards to what made their ‘wacky’ experience different to that offered by neighbouring farms, was their four shot golf challenge which allowed members of the public to try their luck at putting into the vineyards. Truter mused that the golf challenge had become so popular (it has been offered since the first Wacky Wine Festival) that people now bring their own clubs.

When asked to comment on the Wacky Wine festivities in the valley, Truter adds that “from a marketing perspective the Robertson valley producers have always wanted each farm to offer something different to consumers to attract different crowds”.

My last stop for Thursday was the Graham Beck master class tasting where new winemaker Pierre de Klerk conducted the tasting. The informal and interactive tasting involved smelling a number of glasses that contained real world examples of the flavours most commonly found in wine. The glasses contained, amongst others, spices, coffee, butter, toast, fynbos, chocolate, various fruit and vegetables and wood chips.

On Saturday I set off to De Wetshof where I attended their Voyage of discovery Chardonnay tasting where Johann and Peter de Wet showcased their various Chardonnay’s alongside two of the best French examples made in similar styles.

The tasting was conducted in the De Wetshof barrel cellar where the brothers explained that the climate and soil was always taken in to account in the production of their wines. The limestone found naturally in the valley contributed to the strong minerality in their unwooded Chardonnay’s the Bon Vallon 2009 and the Limestone Hill 2010 which kicked off the tasting. The two afore mentioned unwooded Chardonnay’s were compared to their French counterpart the Domaine La’roche Saint Martin 2007 from Chablis.

The lightly wooded Finesse / Lesca Chardonnay 2009 and the newly released Site Chardonnay 2009 were next. The Site Chardonnay is made from 28 year old vines and boasts the GPS co-ordinates on the label.

The final two Chardonnay’s were De Wetshof’s flagship Bateleur 2007 and the Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2007 from Burgundy. Both wines were made in a similar manner were similar soil types and climates and were perfect examples of how terroir influences wine.

After my educational morning I headed off to Excelsior where their ‘My Own Creation’ wine stand allowed patron’s to blend, bottle, cork and label a bottle of wine.

My last stop before heading home was the local Dros which (just like the Spur) boasts two wine lists, one which offers national and another which lists only Robertson wines to keep it local.

Stellenbosch Wine Festival 2011

07 June 2011  by Stellenbosch Wine Routes
The 150 farms that form the Stellenbosch American Express ® Wine Routes are pulling out all the stops for a double barrel celebration to mark their 40th anniversary and the 10th Stellenbosch Wine Festival during the last week of July this year.
The festival, to be held at the Paul Roos Centre from 28 to 31 July, is one of the biggest country food and wine festivals under one roof in the Cape and extends its Winelands hospitality again this year with the ever popular Stellenbosch Wine Week. From 22 to 31 July, visitors to South Africa’s oldest and foremost wine route will be able to partake in special Wine Week cellar door attractions on participating farms leading up to the Wine Festival. Stellenbosch Wine Week offers a wide-ranging kaleidoscope of family-friendly activities including gaming nights, a foreign film festival, food and wine pairings, adventurous day trips, family picnics, live music, exclusive winemaker dinners and rare vertical and varietal wine tastings, all blended into one big barrel of fun.

Various special accommodation packages in and around Stellenbosch, ranging from budget Winelands sleepovers to luxury rest and relaxation amidst the tranquility of aristocratic vines, are available to make the Stellenbosch Wine Week and Wine Festival more accessible to upcountry visitors this year.

Tickets to the Stellenbosch Wine Festival range from R120 per person per day for online bookings or R140 at the door, to R350 for the Golden Pass for the entire festival. The entry fee to the opening of the festival, an exclusive Wine Connoisseurs Evening from 16h00 till 21h00 on Thursday, 28 July, is R160 per person for online bookings or R180 at the door and includes gourmet delights. Be sure to take advantage of these special online prices by booking your tickets on www.webtickets.co.za now. Click here for more information or call (021) 886-4310.

Please click here to view the Stellenbosch Wine Routes June 2011 newsletter.