Review: Riebeeck Olive Festival

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C-side oystersNestled in the heart of the Swartland are two well-known, quaint Plattelandse towns: Riebeeck Kasteel and Riebeeck Wes, famed for some of our best olive products, and therefore the natural choice for an Olive Festival.

Tip: Go early. May can still get quite warm in this region and since you’ll be walking between some of the venues, it’s worth making the most of the cooler Autumn mornings. Besides, by arriving early you are more likely to get a decent parking spot before the whole town becomes congested to a near standstill.

Webtickets had stalls at each of the participating venues, so getting tickets and a wine glass was fairly easy. However, we only got a map at the third venue, before which time we hadn’t a clue about what was going on where. After visiting the third venue, however, we realized that they were all basically the same. Each venue had live music, food trucks and stalls, children’s entertainment areas, olive products by one vendor per venue or none at all, and maybe a few wine-tasting stalls, or then again maybe none at all. Despite this confusion, we did still have a good time once we found a venue to our liking.

The wine tasting was based on a coupon system with a certain amount of coupons included in the ticket price. We didn’t use all of our coupons, mostly because we were satisfied with having tasted what we did and were not in the mood to go in search of additional coupon-accepting tasting stations at other venues.

The venues were well organised, despite the poor signage. There was a free shuttle service available, however we hardly ever saw it and since they followed a specific route, it was difficult to find one going in the direction you wanted it to. Mpact recycling bins were in evidence everywhere and there were more than enough places to sit in the shade, relax, eat, and enjoy the music at each of the venues. Perfect for a lazy, leisurely Sunday afternoon.

Highlights of the day included:
Kloovenburg – Their Chardonnay with guava and tropical fruit on the palate was a cool balm after a trek from the centre of town. No shuttle in evidence and no use standing around waiting for one to come past. Eventually. Kloovenburg also had olives with a blackberry dressing, green olives, chilli and garlic olives, and a few dipping oils that provide testament to the fact that the South African olive industry is growing stronger and stronger. The chilli and garlic as well as the oregano, basil and black pepper dipping oils were particularly delicious. The range also included olive caviar, basil and sundried tomato pestos, smoked olives and sundried pitted olives that were all a treat to eat. This time we caught a tractor back to town – a welcome relief.
Allesverloren – Here we were blown away by Chrisna’s Olives from Delvera. The Moroccan and the hickory smoked pestos are now on my buy-it-if-you-see-it list. The salt dried olives were a peculiar treat, quite different to the sundried ones we’re used to. But the snack of the day was C-Side Oysters’ West Coast giant oysters. Beyond delicious and worth every penny. Org de Rac MCC with its almost cidery taste of apples paired particularly well with the oysters.
Pulpit Rock – While people were enjoying a hearty curry-potjie and just relaxing in the afternoon shade, we sampled the Pulpit Rock Chardonnay Reserve, with banana on the palate, and discovered another surprising treat.

The greater part of our day was spent trying to get to the participating venues, whether by foot or vehicle, which required more effort than it was worth. Riebeeck Kasteel is a small town and the streets don’t cope well with the amount of traffic attracted by a festival. Parking space was limited and navigating your way out of the town to visit one of the venues outside of town was a challenge best addressed by the cool, calm, collected and sober. The problem was not so much with organisation, but rather of expectations and personal preferences. I would have liked easier movement and more wines and olives available for tasting. Considering the number of excellent markets in and around Cape Town, it seems a bit extreme to travel all that way for an event that is more a market than a festival.

Nonetheless, families were enjoying themselves at the different venues, and there were enough snacks and treats for sale from food trucks and stalls to satisfy even the most demanding toddler, teenager, or adult. Riebeeck Kasteel itself was abuzz with happy festival-goers and the restaurants had to do all they could to keep up.

All things considered, I would definitely mark the festival in my 2016 calendar. Second time round, I’ll make sure to plan an outing with friends or family to make use of the leisurely picnic-like atmosphere, rather than expecting a wine and olive tasting marathon.

Freda Scheffler
Review also posted on Freda’s Blog: Chronicles of a Banter

The Riebeeck Olive festival runs from 2 to 3 May 2015

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