Summer sips & swills

© Cape Times Friday 2nd November 2012

As if the countdown to Christmas weren’t frantic and fun-packed enough, it is now festival season once more. Not that I mind that much – after all, how bad can it be to spend lovely sunny, summer days out on beautiful wine farms, surrounded by family and friends eating delicious food and sipping fantastic wine? My in-box is positively bulging with ideas of cool places to hang out over the next couple of months, so here are a few suggestions of things to do and wines to drink when you get there.

First up is The Swartland Revolution, which I always think is a bit of a dichotomy – ‘revolution’ makes it sound as if it comes from the people, for the people, when in fact, it is actually one of South Africa’s most exclusive and expensive festivals featuring very limited tickets to taste lots of amazing overseas wines and drink champagne on tap! The main event is sold out but there is a great ‘local’ event, the Swartland Independent Street Party, which is held on the Saturday November 10th. All the members of the Swartland Independent movement will be milling around Short Street Square in Riebeek Kasteel offering unlimited tastings of their wines along with food stalls and other entertainment. My tips to try include the Mullineux wines, especially their Wine Club Cinsault if you can. Tickets cost R100 each and are available via Webtickets.

The following weekend is the Helderberg Festival, celebrating everything that goes on between Stellenbosch and the sea. Starting on Thursday 15th November and running until the Sunday, most of the farms in the area are offering a range of exciting activities, events, winetastings, lunches and live music. Saturday is Doggies’ Day with shows and events taking place at Vergenoegd whilst Sunday is a chill-out vibe with lunches at Dornier, Somerbosch and Blaauwklippen to name but a few. All the details of the events are on the website and tickets can be bought there as well.

Towards the end of the month, everything gets a bit bubbly. Specialist wine fundis, Wine Concepts, are hosting their Finer Things in Life Champagne Festival on Friday 23rd November. With a James Bond theme and doubtless plenty of Bollinger on tap, it’s a great way to taste some memorable bubblies from both famous and lesser-known Champagne houses. Tickets cost R400 and are available in-store and on Webtickets. And if you prefer your bubblies ‘homegrown’, then there is no festival finer than the Franschhoek Magic of Bubbles Festival over the weekend 30th November – 2nd December. There are one of two French champagnes there as well but otherwise it is a ‘who’s who’ of everyone in the MCC world, offered alongside delicious food from Franschhoek’s many fine restaurants. Last year I managed to twist my ankle within the first half hour and had to sit in the shade with my foot elevated whilst people brought me endless glasses of fizz. I’m hoping for a similar accident to befall me this year as well.

My final festival is one in which I am actually participating amidst much secrecy and excitement. Along with nine other novice brewers, I have been asked to brew my own beer and take part in a competition which will be held during the Cape Town Festival of Beer. This will be over the weekend of 23rd-25th November at Hamilton’s Rugby Club in Green Point where over 150 beers will be available for tasting, along with entertainment and great pub grub. Tickets cost R90 from Webtickets and if you’re there on the Saturday, come along and see how my beer does – I’ve been taking advice from Cape Town’s Queen of Home-brewing, Lynnae Endersby of BeerLab ( so am hoping for the best, and in any event, as long as the axiom “It takes a lot of wine to make a good beer” holds true, then things ought to be just fine! Follow my progress on