Looking for the ‘legs’, gently sniffing while swirling, finding hints of violets or freshly mown grass… This is the land of sommeliers, wine connoisseurs and other French-derived words that are hard to pronounce. For many of us it is a land that we consider in awe. Beyond assessing a wine as red, white, or pink, can we tell the year of its birth after a couple of sniffs and a sip? Hell, no.
And this is exactly why Tuning the Vine is the perfect kind of wine festival for wine philistines. A new festival on the annual Cape Town calendar, it has a distinct agenda: to remove the perceived snobbery and make wine tasting, wine drinking, and wine making fun and accessible. It does it well.
Firstly, the venue. The Lookout at the Waterfront is aptly named. With a deck that is basically on the sea, and a view across Table Bay, it’s gorgeous. Inside, it’s light and airy and was set up with a fun circus-theme, with a stage at one end and the Tasting Theatre at the other. Scattered around the edges and down the middle were wine stands, craft beer stands, cocktail stands and a small cordoned-off section in the middle for the ‘wine rockstars’.
Outside, a huge Bedouin tent provided ample shade and places to sit. Food trucks – a necessity for keeping those stomachs lined – surrounded the area. Helpful staff were everywhere – always a win. After our circus-themed guide showed us through, we were served champagne on the deck by a lovely young thing kitted out in feathers, netting and an eye-catching wire-skirt-cum-wine-glass-
From there we headed into the Taste Theatre for a journey into red wine. Separated from the rest of the room by scarlet curtains, we sat at long tables, each set with six wines and six little bowls of food. Higgo Jacobs, master sommelier, led us through the wines, from inexpensive to more expensive, all interesting. Then we tasted the dishes – from goose liver pate to a chocolate brownie directly from heaven – and were challenged to make our own pairings.
With no pressure to smell the right things or see the right legs, it was a great experience and I learnt a whole lot about, well, wine! Stand out comment of the afternoon: after tasting the Audacia Merlot 2013 (which is exposed to rooibos wood during maturation, and you can definitely taste it), the woman next to me said: “At last, a wine you can drink for breakfast.” Touché.
Heading out to listen to Neil Patterson chatting about his wines, we stopped first to pick up a charcuterie platter and bottle of wine from Blaauwklippen. A fabulous mix of meats, cheeses, olives and bread, it was a perfect snack to accompany the wine tasting (no added sulphites!) and Neil’s friendly, informative and passionate talk.
For those of us with friends who are anti-wine – they do exist, in very small pockets – there were craft beer stands and cocktail stands. Who can resist Wild Clover’s Double Owl English Brown Ale? After an amble around to check out and chat to the winemakers at the various stalls, we settled on the deck as the sun set over Table Bay. Idyllic, really.
As it darkened outside and inside filled up with all manner of costumed creatures – it was Halloween or, in Tuning the Vine speak, ‘Hello Wine’ – Mr Cat & the Jackal took to the stage and started the party with their fabulously fun music.
At this rate, I’m not going to remain a philistine for long.
Tuning the Vine took place at The Lookout at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront 31 October to 2 November 2014.