This was going to be my first wine festival. Just seeing cars driving in the same direction on the N1 was inducing a heady feeling of adventure, and the scenery on the road to Franschhoek was more than a little intoxicating. I was clearly going to be a very easy person to please.
Vrede en Lust was our first stop and immediately my eye was caught by a wine glass filled with delicious looking pink goodness. This was the festival’s infamous spring cocktail: two tots of Jade (a Vrede en Lust rosé), two tots of sprite, a handful of strawberries and crushed ice. One glass down and we were ready to take on the festival…
The festival programme had a clear map of the participating farms as well as details on what to expect at each farm. Most offered live music and food varying from sausages to sushi. Then there were cellar and vineyard tours, barrel tastings, food and wine pairings, art exhibitions and a fresh food market as well as a display of luxury cars and more.
Driving through the winelands from farm to farm was an experience in itself. Our next stop was Plasir de Merle, occupied by a much smaller, intimate crowd chilling out to a jazz band – a nice contrast to the buzz at Vrede en Lust. We could happily have lingered at Plasir de Merle – not least for the savoury pancakes – but for the awareness that there were 16 more farms to find and enjoy.
I was concerned that driving from farm to farm might put a bit of a dent in the party spirit. But after a couple of farms (and a couple of glasses) our perception changed from being visitors at a chain of parties to being welcome guests at one big party. We settled into a rhythm and enjoyed savouring the differences between the various farms – the architecture, the views, the atmosphere and of course the wines. Of all the farms we visited I would have to say Solms-Delta was my favourite. Its wine, music and food best captured Cape Town, its culture and essence and we lingered there for the best part of the day.
There were those who’d brought their kids with them which at first I thought was nuts, but at more than one farm we saw signs beckoning all parents to leave their young ones at the day care centre. And those kids who stayed by their parents’ sides seemed to be enjoying the festival just as much as the parents.
The general atmosphere was bright and breezy. We were greeted by happy staff at every farm and never struggled to get a glass of something, find a bathroom or get an answer to a question, however naive. The whole event was as well-oiled as many of the attendees, who celebrated the arrival of spring in style.