A trip to the verdant wine valley of Franschhoek makes for an enchanting excursion on any weekend of the year. But throw mild spring weather, sizzling food, live music, and brand new vintage wine tastings into the mix and you’ve got a weekend of serious indulgence that is both unforgettable and challenging to remember (yes, I’m talking to you, rowdy crowd of revellers at Boekenhoutskloof).
The fabulous Franschhoek Uncorked Festival is an annual celebration during which participating wineries showcase their brand new vintage wines. With the smell of festival food permeating the air, plenty of wines to taste, fun competitions, live music, and kiddies’ entertainment on offer, people arrive by the car and busload to spend the weekend having good old-fashioned fun in the winelands.
The Participating Wineries
This year, a handsome constellation of wineries located along the Franschhoek wine route participated in the Uncorked Festival. From the far north-western stretch of the route (Noble Hill Wine Estate and Plaisir de Merle) to the east (La Bri, Mont Rochelle, and Haut Espoir), a total of 16 wine farms were on board with the festivities this year, offering visitors a stunning variety of venues to experience.
With such variety on offer and a limited liver capacity, strategy was key. And so we plotted a route that would take us from west to east, to estates we had never visited before. First on the list was GlenWood Vineyards, where the new vintages being showcased were the Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon 2017 and Vigneron’s Selection Chardonnay 2017. This estate is absolutely worth a visit, if only for the spectacular views. Turning off the main road into Franschhoek, you drive for a few kilometres through untouched, Fynbos-clad terroir, giving you a glimpse into what this gorgeous valley looked like before it was cultivated.
Onwards to Rickety Bridge and Dieu Donné
After spending a solid half hour spellbound by the view at GlenWood, we moved on to its neighbouring winery, Rickety Bridge. The actual bridge over a small river to this winery is decidedly unrickety but thankfully so. Here, with more beautiful views of vineyards and mountains unfurled before us, we tasted our way through Rickety Bridge’s new Printer’s Devil Range (a white blend, Grenache rosé, and red blend) so named because the winery owner used to be a printer by trade.
Accompanying the excellent wine was live music courtesy of a rock and roll/bluesy band, which we soaked up for a bit before heading on to Dieu Donné.
Perched precariously on the steep southwest-facing slopes of the Franschhoek Mountains, Dieu Donné Vineyards (“God has given”) enjoys a unique terroir that is sheltered from the sun and bathed in cool high-level breezes. Consequently, the grapes here ripen slowly to achieve high-acid, elegant white wines with a distinct lemony character.
On the day of the Franschhoek Uncorked Festival, this smaller, more intimate winery was showcasing its new Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (powerfully green fig) and the smooth, plummy Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2016. Intrigued by what we tasted, we decided to pay R30 to try a few more of their wines: the absolutely delicious Méthode Cap Classique 2015, which tastes like those lemon biscuits my grandmother insisted on serving with tea; a full-bodied wooded Chardonnay 2017, and a creamy lemony unwooded Chardonnay 2017.
Time for lunch at Black Elephant Vintners
Three wine farms down, it was most definitely time for some lunch and the greasier, the better. We made our way down the hill to Black Elephant Vintners, where a (free) cake and wine pairing in the wine cellar was already in full throttle. Seduced by the smell of grilled meat, we ordered two “cow burgers” and sat down to enjoy the vibe, live music, and ridiculously juicy and delicious hamburgers. Dessert was spent in the wine cellar, tasting a few of Black Elephant Vintner’s selection of whites and reds, which were beautifully paired with tiny, sweet bites. Unfortunately, however, the pressing throngs of people in the cellar soon chased us out and so we made our way to our next and final stop.
Party time at Boekenhoutskloof
Where most other wineries had smaller crowds and chilled vibes, offering a relaxed day in the winelands, Boekenhoutskloof was where the party was at. The Kitchen Jamming Blues Band was letting rip with foot-tapping rock music, crowds of people spilled out onto the lawns with full glasses of the estate’s new vintage release of The Chocolate Block, and certain inebriated patrons were forgetting to close the doors of their porta-potties while they relieved themselves.
We managed to squeeze our way to the tasting table to sample the richly indulgent 2017 – delicious and quaffable as always – before deciding to call it a day. Any more wine and I would also have forgotten to close my porta-potty door.
A roaring success
Through the looking glass of our experience, the Franschhoek Uncorked Festival 2018 was a roaring success. The wineries we visited put on a great show that was neither over-the-top nor ordinary. The festival is certainly a standout on any wine lover’s calendar or, for that matter, anyone who loves getting out the house and spending a leisurely food, music, and wine-drenched day in the spectacular Franschhoek winelands.