I was interested to note that the annual Calitzdorp Port Festival has been renamed the ABSA Calitzdorp Port and Wine Festival.
This makes a lot of sense as there are some really fine unfortified wines coming out of the Klein Karoo and it would be a pity to miss them if you travel all that way and tasted only ports.
This year’s festival takes place on May 18 to 20.
I held an informal tasting of wines made from unusual grapes at my home last week, and the “port varieties” – Tinta Barocca and Touriga Nacional – scored very highly and were enjoyed by the tasters.
Of course, winemakers like Boplaas and De Krans, make some excellent non-port wines. There are good Vabernets, Pinotages and, of course, deliciously sweet Muscadels.
The festival offers some unusual and even amazing events, including the world’s very first ostrich spit-braai.
There’s also a demonstration by wine personality Emile Joubet, of cooking with port wine varieties like Tinta and Touriga Nacional.
For some, the highlight of the festival will be sitting back and listening to local inhabitants telling their “stoep Stories.” Every Karoo town has its local story-tellers and it’s an unforgettable experience listening to a really skilled country raconteur.
Of course, there will be port tastings at every Calitzdorp cellar for the duration of the festival, and that’s what most visitors go for.
For more details, and accommodation arrangements, visit the website.
Le nouveau est allé
Older wine lovers may remember the Cape’s brief craze for “Nouveau” wines – simple wines made and bottled almost immediately after the harvest.
They were made for immediate drinking and never claimed to have any lasting power.
The fashion started in the Boujolais region of France and was, at one time quite popular. There was an annual race to see who could get their Nouveau wines onto a London restaurant table first.
A local annual Nouveau Festival was held on the Paarl mountain and winemakers devised unusual and eye-catching ways to bring their wines to the fairground. They arrived by donkey, radio-controlled model helicopters, tractor, motorbike and semi-naked slave girls.
A great time was had by all and Father Bacchus blessed the new vintage.
There was only one small drawback. The wines were dreadful. Almost all of them were sickly-sweet and grossly unbalanced. I don’t actually remember enjoying a single one, although, like everybody else, I consumed a good deal and was heartily ill afterwards.
The festival seems to have died a merciful death.
I believe they’ve abandoned the Nouveau race in France now too. The message must eventually have got through to even the most cardboard-palated boozer that it was all much ado about yucky.
I was reminded of this brief venture into bad wine when I discovered a bottle of 1990 Nouveau lurking at the back of a cupboard.
“I wonder what would have happened to one of those horrors after 22 years,” I asked myself and opened the bottle.
It certainly hadn’t improved. An aroma of dead mouse and a palate best left alone.
Nobody will mourn its passing.