You might well wonder what a parking lot in Observatory in Cape Town has to do with the great vineyards of the Rhône valley and the south of France. Well, when it’s covered by “a huge marquee” on September 5, you will find out – if Roland Peens of the Wine Cellar (the excellent retailer and provider of air-conditioned cellaring in that interesting suburb) is correct in his suggestion that “this environment fits well with the rustic but friendly wines of the South of France”. This straightfaced remark sounds like either a bit of a joke or a bit of desperate justification of the cheap venue choice, but either way it’s likely to be a good day.
It’s a great idea, anyway. The Wine Cellar is organising a “South of France Festival” – featuring many of the locally available wines from that large and voluminously productive area. (Some of them are pretty sophisticated stuff, in fact, and their proud makers would resent Roland calling them “rustic”, I should think, even if they might accept “friendly”.) The pic alongside is not of a parking lot, but of the little place in Roussillon owned by the Griers of Villiera – their wines will be available for tasting.
But the festival’s not just a place to meet foreigners: there will also be a group of Cape equivalents – wines made from the same varieties and/or inspired by the French model. In fact the local presence is rather more circumscribed than that, being essentially limited to wines of the Riebeek Mountain-Perdeberg axis of the southern Swartland area (producers like Lammershoek, Scali, Sequillo, to mention a few). So no Ken Forrester Gypsy (a quintessential southern French-style wine) or many others of that ilk. But I suppose you have to draw a line somewhere. Not that all the possible producers of the southern Swartland are there either – Annex Kloof, Hughes Family, not to mention the co-ops of the region, are not listed; but most of the fashionable wineries are, those in a direct line of descent from the pioneer Charles Back of Spice Route and his first winemaker there, Eben Sadie.
It is a thoroughly great idea – inspired, presumably, by the Riesling Festival we had a little while back. We in Cape Town are lucky enough, but need more of this sort of thing, to extend and build an outward-looking, vibrant wine culture. Tickets for tasting all the wines at the Festival and for enjoying a no doubt delicious buffet prepared by the great chef of Joostenberg, Christophe Dehosse, cost R275. Available from Janine Retief at Wine Cellar (Janine@winecellar.co.za; tel 021 448 4105). She can also provide more details, apparently – there doesn’t seem to be anything about it on the Wine Cellar website and I don’t have space or energy here. But I can tell you the good news that, to make the environment more friendly and rustic, we are promised that “heaters, hired security and parking will all be provided”. I’m a bit worried about the parking, though, if the car park is given over to the marquee… But I daresay they’ll have thought of that little problem.
A few tasting notes
Here, while we’re speaking of the Swartland, are a few more recently released wines tasted a little while back by me, Angela Lloyd and Ingrid Motteux. Two 2007 Shirazes from Riebeeck Cellars first. The standard one is a good buy at R30, fruity and uncomplicated, but not one of those vulgar squishy wines that some producers seem to think de rigueur at the cheaper levels, forgetting that some not-rich people also like decent stuff. They could buy and enjoy this one, relish the clean, sweet fruit, and savour the gentle tannic tug. 14/20. The A Few Good Men version costs R50, and it’s not certain that it is worth that much more, though it is a bit more complex and rich, with a slightly firmer structure – though the rather prominent acidity worried some of us. Let’s say 14.5/20.
We also had a Merlot from Kloovenburg, the large farm near Riebeek which also does splendid things with olives. Dusty choc and sweet ripe fruit aromas, with some lightly grippy tannins which are a bit drying on the finish. Not the most graceful of Kloovenburg’s offerings, it’s the sort of wine that makes you realise why the Rhône varieties like shiraz, grenache and mourvèdre are the real future of this area’s red wines, especially at over R60 per bottle. 14/20.