It’s a new year, the height of summer, and wineries throughout the Cape are perched on the edge of their seats in preparation for harvest season. For wine lovers, this means many things but chief of all in my books is the Franschhoek Summer Wines festival, hosted by Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards: my favourite annual wine festival here in Cape Town!
Beneath the generous awning of a gargantuan marquee tent set up on the verdant lawns was spread a bounty of 23 tasting stations, each represented by a different wine estate located in or around the Franschhoek Valley. Adjacent, row upon row of casual seating had been laid out in preparation for the masses of white-clad revellers that flock here to sip their way through a bounty of delicious summery wines.
You see, Franschhoek Summer Wines is the story of the Franschhoek Valley – its terroir, climate, people, and history – as told by the wines that are best enjoyed on a hot summery day, from vivacious Méthode Cap Classiques, zestful Sauvignon Blancs, and lush Chenin Blancs to Provincial-style Rosés and luxuriant Chardonnays.
Sushi and Strategy
Upon arrival, guests are given a wine glass and a tasting sheet with all 23 wines detailed (winemaker, price, tasting notes, etc.), as well as a R20 discount coupon on any wine you wish to purchase. As with any festival that involves a staggering variety of wines, the best approach is to employ a little strategy and so we kicked off with a lovely platter of fresh sushi, a tasting of the Jean Roi Cap Provincial Rosé from Anthonij Rupert Wyne, a premium rosé made in the same style as those in Provence, France, and sat down to plot our path through the tasting stations.
Side note: the food on offer at the Franschhoek Summer Wines festival was outstanding and clearly curated with the central “summer wine” theme in mind. There were enormous trays of fresh oysters, plates of beautifully made sushi, and thin-crust gourmet pizzas topped with, amongst other delicacies, fior di latte mozzarella, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and olives. There was also a harvest table of sorts where guests could compile their own cheese, bread, and preserves platter, to be taken out to the expansive gardens and enjoyed with a glass of wine.
Summer wine tasting
Armed with a plan of action, we began our rounds of the tasting tables, starting with the Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir from Leopard’s Leap (fruity, easy-drinking) followed by La Petite Ferme’s Baboon Rock 2018 (unwooded Chardonnay), and La Chataigne Fumé Blanc 2017, a beautifully balanced, barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc that was amongst our favourites for the day. We also tried the COGH Altima Sauvignon Blanc 2017 from Anthonij Rupert Wyne, Holden Manz Chenin Blanc 2018, La Bri Chardonnay 2017, Boekenhoutskloof Sémillon 2016, and the Babylonstoren Mourvèdre Rosé.
All in all, we managed to sip, swish, and swill our way through 10 different summer wines, with a glass of the absolutely exceptional Haut Espoir Chardonnay 2017 as interlude. This number wasn’t even half of what was on offer; however, since we intended on departing with our dignities intact, we concluded the festivities with a chocolate-drenched Belgium waffle that sent us home with melted chocolate all over our faces and fingers.
Why it’s our favourite wine festival
The Franschhoek Summer Wine festival manages to celebrate wine without degenerating into a sordid affair you’d rather not wake up from. In spite of the variety of wines on offer – and the fact that they don’t restrict you with tasting coupons (that’s a big plus) – there is a classy yet vivacious atmosphere that culminates in people dancing to the live music and not on the tables.
The food on offer is fresh, absolutely delicious, well-priced, and the perfect accompaniment to the wines, and there is ample seating indoors and out so that, not once, even at the height of the day’s festivities, did we struggle to find a place to sit and relax. For all these reasons and, most of all, the quality of the wines and wineries on show, we will happily continue to make our annual pilgrimage back to Franschhoek, to the leafy, green Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards, and to the Franschhoek Summer Wines festival!
Keep up to date with the next event at www.franschhoek.org.za