Looking for the ‘legs’, gently sniffing while swirling, smelling hints of violets or freshly mown lawn… This is the land of sommeliers, wine connoisseurs and other French-derived words that I struggle to pronounce and that leave me fearfully shaking in a corner at the pressure. Sure, I can see if a wine is red, white, or pink, but telling you 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 a philistine like me, and I was thrilled to go to their media event. The festival is held at The Lookout at the Waterfront and the idea is 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 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 on the other. More on those later. 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 ‘rockstars’.
Outside, a huge Bedouin tent provided ample shade and places to sit. Food trucks – a necessity for making sure that you keep those stomachs lined – surrounded this area. Friday was a little windy, so we opted for inside. Very helpful staff are 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 a wire skirt made out of glasses.
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. No more having to even wait for the kettle to boil!” Touché.
Heading out to listen to Neil Patterson chatting about his wines, we stopped first to pick up our charcuterie platter and bottle of wine to take home (I love a party pack) 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 and informative talk. There’s something lovely about listening to someone who is so passionate about the craft.
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 Hallowe’en or, as it was called at Tuning the Vine, Hello Wine – Mr Cat & the Jackal took to the stage and started the party with their fabulously fun music.
I’ll be back next year, for sure.
An edited version of this piece appears at Whats on in Cape Town.