Word back on the wack

Word back on the wack
Author: Amanda Robbins
“The first time is always the best,” Henrik tells me, flashing a lopsided smile as he shakes The Red off his goose pimpled skin. The wine stained man is talking about the slide running into a pool filled with Roodezandt’s fruity blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but the feeling may easily be applied to Robertson’s Wacky Wine Festival as well. The first pilgrimage, plunge or sip; South Africa’s top event for vinos attracts thousands for a weekend in the vineyard filled valley.

The festival sprawled from Wandsbeck to Jan Harmsgat, but the central buzz was in Robertson where three main tasting tents set the stage for what could be found beyond the main streets. While the festival started on Thursday, the biggest bustle began Saturday afternoon when all the wineries opened for tastings. The main square filled with international wine lovers as well as curious residents from nearby cities, and the sites overflowed with participants by noon. One Cape Town local shared her surprise at how large the festival had grown in the three years she has attended, and raved about this years’ selections as she sipped Muscadel from her glass.

The spectacle of the festival began at the large Roodezandt venue, where day long live music pumped from speakers, and tucked away at the back of the avenue, six of the label’s bottles were up for tasting. The favourite among festival goers was the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, a dry pure creation harvested in early February and hinting green fig and grassy notes. For lovers of reds, trying the Syrah 2011, a full bodied and fruity Shiraz that hits the palette with a warm pat of cherries, was a must. Pairing with a hungry stomach was easy as a burger and chips were available at the nearby food stall, or for those craving a more international cuisine, a quick walk around the corner to the Robertson Winery Food and Wine Hall proved to be worthwhile.

From Chip Twisters to calamari or curry, the hall slammed both taste buds and ear drums with a variety of sensations. Cover songs played by Dirkie and Talita carried through the stone enclosure, providing the perfect accompaniment to those tasting Robertson Wineries’ many bottles on offer. One of the favourites on Saturday proved to be the dry and plush Wolfkloof Shiraz, a pure composition that suggests cinnamon and blackberry. One attendee raved about the mulberry tones while showing off the bottle she bought to enjoy during her post-festival blues.

Lovers of reds also made the short trek across the road to Du Von, where a luscious Cabernet Sauvignon was on offer. The red aged for 24 months in the oak barrel, and dances a fruity yet dry smooth black raspberry ballet on the tongue before finishing with a woody spice finale. This is a wine you remember, and for less than R120, a wine you can continue to enjoy without breaking bank.

After finishing off the samples and buying a bottle or five at La Verne Wine Boutique, I caught another glance of Roodezandt’s event attraction. At every turn the towering slide flowing with wine set up for attendees who stand to brave the height of the ladder and swift plummet into the cold Cabernet pool stared me down with self possessed grandeur, daring me to dive in. After watching Henrik and his mates cruise down into the Cabernet and having tried several tents’ selections, I finally decided to attempt to conquer the crimson feat myself. For R50, I could join the select club of pool divers and potentially win the grand prize of R10.000, or at least claim a bottle of The Red from Roodezandt.

Onlookers cheered over Reinier van Rooyen as I reached the summit of the slide, and as I breathed in the scent of fermented grapes and braai and gazed out over tipsy tourists and traveling connoisseurs to the sprawling reptilian Langberg and Riviersonderend mountains, the draw of Robertson’s Wacky Wine Festival dawned on me. Flavours and atmosphere combine to create a four day event unlike any other, drawing in the scenic beauty of the valley, international chatter, and concoctions that make the nose sing and mouth praise the delicious South African wines on offer.

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