Wine shows often conjure up the quirky anecdote “herding cats” – hundreds of semi-sozzled people bashing elbows as they reel around glass always at the ready.
Not so the Sasfin Plett and Wine Festival.
Last weekend’s event, held in an elegantly decorated marquee on Plettenberg Bay’s Central Beach, was all cool sophistication.
From its blue and white with a hat theme, to the beautifully decorated stands, wine aficionados quaffed wine and bubbly, slurped down oysters and feasted on artisanal treats.
Bigger than last year’s event – 1600 people attended this year – 10 wine estates offered up a range of cool-climate wines and bubbly that ranged from the fun and frivolous to bone-dry elegance.
Excited by the success of the event, Plett Wine and Bubbly Festival media manager, Patty Butterworth, said a venue change was more than likely for next year’s festival.
“We seem to have outgrown the area we have occupied for the past two years. There are some interesting venue options … watch this space.
“We would also like to expand on our Wine Legends Theatre for next year to incorporate some interesting guest speakers and presentations into the mix,” she said.
It’s little wonder that the festival has grown year-on-year. The wines are top quality and, over the last few years, have been raking in the awards. Started by the pioneers at Bramon, the first vines were only introduced to the area in 2000 with the first wine bottled in 2004.
Now, 16 years later, Bramon has been joined by 15 other estates and Methode Cap Classic (MCC) – bubbly to the uninitiated – has become a firm feature of a wineland that is growing in stature.
Last weekend the wines of origin region did not disappoint, pulling off a stunner of a show.
Butterworth said she believed the show was a resounding success.
“It was well supported by all communities in Plett and there was great attendance from Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, Joburg, Cape Town and then areas in between,” she said.
She added that the festival provided Plett Tourism with the chance to further promote the wine aspect of the town’s Pletts tourism offering.
“I’m amazed at how many people still don’t know that Plett has a winelands,” Butterworth said.
“This to us was great. So many people were pleasantly surprised and, particularly, to find out that we are producing award-winning MCC’s which have become somewhat of a calling-card for us.”
Alongside the wine and bubbly, some of Plett’s trendiest food artisans and restaurants offered tasty treats with plenty of palate-pleasing discoveries to be made.
One of Plett’s top-rated restaurants, Fat Fish, served up top-quality sushi while Lederle’s Six on Main offered hand-crafted artisan breads paired with cheeses and locally-procured charcuterie (think bacon, ham, sausage and the like) platters from The Heath Café.
Participants included Kay and Monty Vineyards, Lodestone Wine & Olives, Plettenvale Wine Estate, Redford Lane
Wines, Newstead Lund Family Vineyards, Andersons Wine, Bitou Vineyards, Bramon Wine Estate, Luka Wines and Packwood Wine Estate.
Favourite bubblies included Kay and Monty’s Champu, Bramon’s Chardonnay MCC, Plettenvale’s Brut Rosé and Newstead’s bubbles that burst with flavour.
Bramon in particular, has won numerous awards – including a Terroir Award for their 2014 Blanc de Blanc MCC,
Vitis Vinifera Gold for The Crags Sauvignon Blanc 2014 and a Michelangelo Silver for The Crags Sauvignon Blanc 2014.
They were the first to produce the unique and now very popular Sauvignon Blanc MCC. starting a trend which Plett
Tourism is working hard to develop into household names.
On the artistic side Sounds of Joy, a Plett-based, four-piece band with an authentic and cheerful Malay minstrel sound, spent large parts of both days entertaining the crowds.
Award-winning singer Arno Carstens closed off the event on Sunday evening.
The Long Story is a best-seller
Every good story has a delicious twist in the tale and there is little more delectable than quirkiness, so subtle surprises confront you around every corner.
From the first breathtaking walk through flower-strewn paths – where the sounds of birds and running water collide – the Long Story Guesthouse in Plettenberg Bay has been designed to add a chapter to a guest’s book of life.
Despite the calm, somewhat homey feel about the Robberg BnB with a difference, it’s clear that nothing has happened by accident.
When you look deeper than the roaring fire, the comfortable chairs and proprietor Meg Ward, who treats her quests as family, you begin to see all the little quirks in the deliberate yet understated design delights.
The farm-style kitchen with its creative décor is the heart of the establishment, something that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Meg is a chef and her love for food has seeped into every corner of her kitchen. Drawer handles are fashioned from large cutlery items. Forks, cake knivesfes and your conventional knives have been bent into shape to form the handles of the cupboards and cabinets.
Just outside are herb boxes where fennel and chives and purple cabbages are grown. Hanging lamps over the kitchen counter are made from old glass produce bottles and two large ovens and hobs fit easily into the airy space.
Two ovens are a necessity as guests can take part in a “cook and stay” holiday where, with Meg’s help, they will whip up their own gourmet meals.
It’s not a cooking class says Meg, it’s a communal experience, a chance to share your love of food, get a taste of cooking and come away with new ideas, recipes and friends.
The rooms all form part of the tale and are aptly named, starting with The Beginning Room, The Middle Room, The End Room and The Twist In The Tale.
Breakfasts are also named with fresh fruit, cheeses, homemade banana bread, yogurt and muesli forming part of The Short Story, while The Long Story is a hot breakfast.
The food is nothing short of spectacular, with Meg sourcing her products locally and growing her own herbs.
The rooms are very comfortable and the eco-friendly aspects, such as like copper towel warmers which are warmed up as water from baths or showers flows through them, all just add to a stay that is completely outside of the norm.
Staying at the Long Story Guesthouse was certainly , without a doubt, a chapter in our life story that will not easily be forgotten.
Rustic charm, excellent Plett wines real winners
There is a rustic charm about Redford Lane, with its picturesque dam and retired racehorses that amble slowly by.
Visitors sit on a wooden deck as they sip easy-drinking sauvignon blanc, white or red blends and scoff down biltong jam.
The veranda is fitted with hand- crafted wooden furniture and art with views of mountains, forests and fynbos fields.
So pretty is the wine farm that it is hard to imagine a better setting but, as Plett Wine Tours sets out to prove, the 16 wine farms in the area all have their own unique beauty – and fantastic ranges of wines and bubbly.
Setting off in the very comfortable Plett Wine Tour bus, our destinations were Redford Lane Wines and Kay and Monty Vineyards.
Our tour guide, a chatty and knowledgeable Dorothy Prinsloo, happily filled us in on the area, explaining what the different estates have to offer and how lovers of cooler-climate whites wereare in for a treat.
At Redford Lane, situated in the heart of The Crags, we tried a white blend and a sauvignon blanc with a platter that included olives, biltong jam (yes, you get such a thing and yes, it’s good), cheeses, snoek and biltong pate and preserves.
The wine was smooth and the food excellent. All the food is homemade but with a sophisticated twist on your traditional ploughman’s platter.
Redford Lane also offers tastings of Andersons’ Leto Venus Sauvignon Blanc and this turned out to be one of my favourites of the weekend.
Made using grapes grown up on Keurbooms Heights overlooking Plett, the Leto Venus bursts with melon and citrus flavours.
Bundled back into the bus, we headed for Kay and Monty, which was originally a Protea farm. It was bought p by former polo player Chick Legh in 2004.
The property is an impressive 220ha hectare working polo farm and vineyard and the views are simply spectacular.
There is a massive dam – enjoyed by geese – horse paddocks, vineyards and mountains.
The elegant tasting room, once an orchid greenhouse, is a large, airy space that doubles up as a wedding venue. Here the definite winner of the tasting was the cutely named MCC Champu.
With pear and lime undertones, the bubbly is fizzy fun in a glass.
We tried both the 2014 and 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, with the 2015 pipping the 2014 at the post when it came to our group’s favourite.
Plett Wine Tours is most definitely the best way to see the wine- lands, with the concerns about driving taken out of the equation. completely.
They do both educational tours, where you wil’ll learn a little about viticulture, as well as a Crags Tour, which is a little more relaxed.
Having on previous trips visited Newstead and Bramon, another trip to try out other farms is a must. We have yet to be disappointed.