“Caramel popcorn!” Claire shouts gleefully. “I taste caramel popcorn.” Toomuchloveliness, sitting on her right, nods enthusiastically. Baas, the Beau Joubert viticulturist, sits on my left. He cocks an eyebrow and takes a sip of the Sav Blanc in question. He doesn’t seem entirely convinced by the caramel popcorn hypothesis.
Saturday dawned warm and sunny in Cape Town, after a week of premature winter rains. Beau Joubert had invited me to join them for a stomp and sip day on the gorgeous farm near Stellenbosch, which lies at the end of a long oak lane. Hence their ‘Oak Lane’ wine range. Clever, no?
We were told we would need to work for our lunch and they weren’t lying. Baas handed us each a crate and a pair of shears and gave us twenty minutes to fill it with bunches of the plump, purple grapes which hid amongst the rows if vine leaves in front of us. He may have said something about watching our fingers because the scissors were sharp. Listen, he wasn’t kidding. I took a nice chunk out of my finger and fairly shortly afterwards gave up on my crate. If it’s full enough for Simba, it’s full enough for me.
A tractor came to carry our (heavy) crates down the hill and we all traipsed into the cellar to watch this super interesting contraption at work. The grape bunches are fed in one end of the machine, the fruit stripped off the stalks and the branches spat out one end while the grapes sent off to the big tanks. The light in there wasn’t great, but I attempted a video and you’ll get a pretty good idea of the process.
The big tanks holding the grapes are about chest height and big enough to swim in, which is exactly what happened next. Foolishly, I had (legitimately) left swimming things at home so I stood on the sides snapping pictures in the gloomy light and trying not to get caught in the inevitable grape fight which broke out. Any photos from inside were utterly useless but Nikki is both braver and far more talented than I am, and she got close enough to get some pretty great shots.
Finally, we got to the important part. The part with the drinking and the eating. My favourite part of any day. I’m not a big wine drinker, despite having parents who wine lovers and who spent much of my childhood in the tasting rooms of various wine farms, while I played on the grass outside with the farm dogs. Happy years. Natalie is much better at wine than me, so if you’re looking to get into this fine art check out her myth-busting tips here. Despite my inexperience, I was really chuffed to be part of the first group of people to ever taste their newly bottled sparkling wine. It needs another year or two in the bottle before it will be ready for sale, at which point you should jump for a bottle because it is amazing.
Me, I was just happy with a plate of good food, endless cheese and great company. Super thanks to Beau Joubert for hosting us, it was a really beautiful day. Next year, I’ll be the first one on that tank! Thank you to Andrew, Lydia, Baas Ian, Christian and Elzanne for a being such good sports and gracious hosts.
Be sure to check out their website, they also have a stunning cottage and are close enough to Cape Town for a quick weekend getaway which won’t break the petrol-bank. You can find them on the Old Polkadraai Road in Stellenbosch, near La Provence.