It was in true winter spirit that Simon’s at Groot Constantia opened its doors to the media preview of this year’s Boutique Hop ‘n’ Vine Festival. Nestled in South Africa’s oldest wine estate, this historic and scenic location is set to focus on keeping the winter chills at bay with a selection of artisan beers and garagiste wines and a plethora of tasty bites to try with each.
The air of the high-ceilinged, spacious room held a warm and welcoming charm in a voice all of its own. Having arrived a trifle early, it was possible to view the last bustle of the set-up – a moment that gave rise to a whole new appreciation for the vast dedication required to orchestrate an event such as this.
After a successful launch in May at the Banana Jam Café – a lighted-hearted Caribbean-themed venue that describes itself as ‘the headquarters of South Africa’s craft beer revolution’ – the Craft Beer Project aims to flex a devastating combination of charm and muscle in order to create a space for itself on a stage long-dominated by wine. And in the spirit of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, it has joined forces with a number of garagiste wine producers with a similar work ethic.
“The most important thing about beer,” we were told, is that it “doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s all about balance.” Undeniably selective in our nature of interests, the average person is prone to be partial to either the vine or the grain. And this is a shame. Where wine-and-food pairing has become an industry standard, beer-and-food has pretty much been confined to burgers and chips. Only last week for instance, at a tasting at the Kyoto Garden in Tamboerskloof, did I discover the joys of sushi and beer (Steph Weiss to be precise).
So having ‘warmed up’ with some well-rounded Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc traditionally paired with Constantia Cheesery’s popular Farm Gouda, I turned to the beer.
Out of 15 plus Craft Breweries billed to take part in the festival alongside six top wine garagistes, seven were on offer for us to try. A favourite that echoed was the Valley London Ale described as: “a light, refreshing ale with biscuit aromas and a light, bitter finish,” coupled perfectly with a spiced pepper-like, lingering, grilled swordfish. What next? My eye lingered happily on names such as ‘Van Hunks Pumpkin Ale’, ‘Devils Peak Kings Blockhouse IPA’ and ‘Triggerfish Stout’ – none of them names for the faint of heart, and the wish to savour them all was extended to its limit.
All around the room, as glasses were sipped and Simon’s fine-quality cuisine was sampled, remarks ranged from tender pondering to pleasant surprise. The conceit that complementing high-class food is the reserved of the valley of wine was properly taken by the scruff of its neck and given a dressing down. The organizers, it would appear, have met their goal.
This is a tasting opportunity that takes one from the aventura de vino onto the road less er… savoured. With authentic stalls and live music, festival participants can expect an intimate gathering against a backdrop that is bound to please all the senses.
Balance, he’d said. A glass in each hand perhaps?
The Hop ‘n’ Vine festival runs on the 20th and 21st of July at Simon’s on the Groot Constantia wine estate.