At this time, communities come together to celebrate the culmination of hard labour and fruits borne of local soil. It is also when farm owners invite those of viticultural persuasion to join in the fun of picking, stomping and tasting of grapes before the serious business of winemaking begins.
And this year’s harvest festivities will not disappoint, since it also marks the historic event of South Africa’s 353nd grape harvest, that will see local winemakers celebrating the country’s status as the oldest New World wine making country in the world.
For those who have not yet succumbed to stomping in the mush, or re-tuning their taste buds, experiencing the industry at this level might enlighten ancient skills going back to Egyptian times now turned to scientific precision. Connoisseurs reckon taste buds mature much in the way as wonderful vintages used to come-of-age, in ancient oak barrels, before the invention of stainless steel.
For those wanting to pick their favourite cultivars or visit a new winery, the order of the harvest may guide a selection of grapes to go picking or stomping, and when. Wines with lower sugar levels such as sparkling wines and Cap Classiques, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir followed by other light coloured wines, are generally picked earlier to ensure lower sugar levels, while red wine grapes follow next in taking longer to reach full maturation. To produce perfect dessert wines, grapes need to reach a raisin-like stage that produces highly concentrated sugars, requiring it to be picked much later.
This special season has resulted in a wide selection of harvest festivities across all the Cape wine regions, from Durbanville through to the Boland towns of Stellenbosch, Franschoek, Wellington, Paarl, where some include weekend festivals and others just one day trips. A number of truly authentic celebrations of the harvest can be seen where the traditional ‘Oesfees’ embraces local history through the Cape’s rich musical and culinary heritage.
These magnificent regions offer also offer the opportunity to explore the Cape scenery and contrasting geography, where exclusive residential and lifestyle developments are seen spread amid mountains, ocean and working wine farms. For those moving further afield toward the famous Route 62, small towns such as Robertson and Barrydale are home to the producers of superior quality export wines as well as unbeatable countryfied lifestyles.
And for environmental and organic enthusiasts, this is another opportunity of seeing how wine farms are striving for sustainability through the newest methodologies adapted in cellars to focus on treating the effluent water, recycling all wine production’s waste, and reducing chemicals usage and water wastage in the winelands areas.
Joining in the fuss at harvestime might also shed light on the event of February of1659 when the first wine was produced from Cape grapes, when Jan van Riebeeck joyfully entered the event in his diary saying: "Today, praise be to God, wine was pressed for the first time from Cape grapes."