Paarl: in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. A mere 45 minute drive from town had landed me in the heart of the winelands, on a day perfect for the harvesting of grapes. It was now late afternoon and the baking sun beating down on the farm had cooled a little, but there was still not a cloud to be seen.
Nederburg’s friendly staff welcomed us and offered a glass of sparkling wine to kick start the evening. The setting was breathtaking: from the elegance of the manor house to the striking beauty of the vineyard set against the backdrop of the mountains, I was in awe. After snacking on fresh mosbolletjie bread, we were led across the soft green grass of the gardens, towards the vineyard.
The 5.8 ha area of vines on which we worked was planted in 2001. The idea of harvesting was a little daunting, but the farm manager, Willem Pienaar, demonstrated what needed to be done and we got stuck in with a pair of mean-looking pair of shears. The vines looked unremarkable at first glance, but once the leaves were brushed aside, bunches of purple blue grapes were revealed – some so perfect that they looked like a cartoon. Within minutes we had filled our crate with grapes and, sticky and grinning, made our way back feeling very self-satisfied indeed.
With the sun now low in the sky and the long shadows stretching their fingers towards the mountains we took our places at the tables on the lawn and tucked into picnic baskets overflowing with locally produced cheeses, a chicken and bacon kebab, smoked salmon, cous cous salad and an olive and spinach tartlet, and even fudge, and koeksister and a chocolate biscuit for dessert.
Instrumental quartet Sterling EQ took to the stage during dinner. These four talented girls – Carina Bruwer (flute), Renate Ridemann, Erial Huang (both electric violin), and Ariella Caira (electric cello) were a great choice for entertainment for the night.
Drawing on inspirations as diverse as classical music, pop, kwaito and jazz, they incorporated songs from Bach and Vivaldi to our own kwaito rap star Mandoza. Vibrant and energetic performers, Sterling EQ brought forth an enthusiasm that I had not anticipated, effortlessly entertaining the crowd with upbeat songs, dancing around the stage to crowd favourite ‘The Can Can’ and Mexican mambo number, ‘Sway’, while balancing their repertoire with some pure classics and some slow numbers. During a slow version of “Lisa se Klavier”, I felt so relaxed and at home that I found myself eyeing up the soft lawn for a little post-prandial kip.
The sun had set, and lamps subtly illuminated each table. This, combined with the setting, the music, and the garden of white roses in front of the stage made for a magical atmosphere at Nederburg Wine Farm.
The Nederburg Harvest Festival took place on 25 February at Nederburg Wines, Paarl.