Wine festivals are in abundance this time of year, so what makes this one distinctive? Firstly it is far smaller than the majority of wine festivals which can become uncomfortably crowded and cramped, with human traffic jams at every stall. The picnic venue of Hartenberg Wine Estate is small enough for tickets to have to be limited, but big enough to feel festive.
Similarly, the venue is not packed with a thousand different food stalls and tasting tables, making the experience far less complicated and totally fuss-free. When given fewer options at a higher quality, people respond happily, making quick, successful choices. To be able to avoid long queues is a refreshing experience on a hot day in Stellenbosch.
The relaxed atmosphere was further enhanced by the fact that people were encouraged to bring their own picnic blankets and cushions, eliminating the need to fight for a spot to sit. In light of this, it was possible to slowly experience what is on offer. With the option of a pre-ordered picnic, or a meal from one of the few gourmet stalls, the atmosphere was very chilled as visitors sprawled under the shade of the oak trees with live music as the soundtrack to their unrushed summer afternoon.
The tutored wine tastings by the likes of leading winemaker Paul Cluver revealed the time and care put into bringing a high quality event to the public. Nonetheless there were a few details that could be improved upon. Clear signage was lacking, and the organisers looked distinctly rushed and distracted, which rather dampened the welcoming feel. This was soon forgotten though in the general balmy warmth of the event. At Riesling Rocks it is all too easy to settle onto a blanket with a gourmet picnic basket and feel the stress of city life ebb away.
Riesling and Rarities Rock Festival 2015 took place on 31 January at Hartenberg Wine Estate.