It’s been a busy 2014! Plett Tourism has introduced the Plett Winelands, taken Plett’s award-winning vineyards to the Joburg and PE wine shows, launched the first Sasfin Plett Wine & Bubbly Festival and put together the Plett Winelands Hiking Trails – to be launched in 2015!
Plett Tourism chairman Peter Wallington says the Plett Winelands is the first project being developed by Plett Tourism to provide holidaymakers with more reasons to visit Plett out of season. Working hand in hand with the Plettenberg Bay Winegrowers Association, the aim is to create a premium wine and lifestyle experience that reinforces Plett’s positioning as South Africa’s preferred quality leisure experience.
The inaugural Sasfin Plett Wine & Bubbly Festival was held in near perfect conditions. The VIP launch took place The Plettenberg. Speakers included Plett Tourism chairman Peter Wallington, Bitou Municipality mayor Memory Booysen and Plettenberg Bay Winegrowers Association spokesman Jon Tonkin and winemaker Anton Smal, then The Plettenberg’s Executive Chef Peter Tempelhoff delighted guests with a food pairing of five local Méthode Cap Classique wines and a selection of his mouth watering delicacies.
Mayor Booysen then officially launched the inaugural event with a ‘wine sabrage’, with instruction and a demonstration by winemaker Smal. Using a sword, the end of the Bramon MCC and Plettenvale MCC bottles were knocked off in one clean piece, cork, glass and all.
The event moved down to the Beacon Island Resort, where wine (from nine Plett estates), food and great music (from Sujo& Storm, local favourite Tigger and Watershed ) entertained hundreds of visitors on the 4 and 5th October. Then, it the festival moved to various wine farms and their breakaway events, which included a cycling wine route race, a cheese making course, a country fayre and a contemporary music and arts day.
Is the Plett Winelands the most exciting thing to happen to the SA wine industry for decades?
Glenn Murray spent a glorious day finding out.
Did you know that Italy produced more wine than France last year or that Spain produced more wine than Italy the year before that,or that for the first time ever, the USA has overtaken France as the world’s largest consumer of wine – and that within ten years China is expected to consume more than anyone else?
Wine is big business.
Plettenberg Bay is South Africa’s smallest wine growing region with 58 hectares of the 100 000 hectares planted countrywide. Plett’s wine region is the country’s most easterly cultivar and stretches 57 km along the thin coastal strip from Packwood in Harkerville until Lodestone on the Redford Road in the Crags.
It is small, young, exciting and thriving and there can be little doubt that it is South Africa’s most scenic wine region.
The first grapes in the area were planted by Peter Thorpe on his Bramon Estate in the Crags, on Plett’s west side. His property had the soils , slope and climate for wine so the decision seemed fairly logical.
Studying the life cycles of fish at Rhodes University for four years hardly prepared him for a life as a wine maker though,and the skeptics thought he was mad.
After tireless research, boldness in foresight and in choosing a renowned winemaker in Anton Smal, Plett’s first vineyard, Bramon, was born in 2000.
Others followed, but slowly. Although today it seems that every second farm along this thin coastal strip is growing grapes, there are only 19 vineyards with 9 producing farms that bottle their own wine.
Wine agri tourism in the PlettWinelandsis in full swing with more and more farms now offering meals or cheese and olives with their tastings. Most have breathtaking views of the sweeping seas or the Tsitikamma Mountains.
Redford Lane wines on the Redford Road in the Crags have only a single hectare under cultivar but their Sauvignon Blancis lovely. They have been active for six years and arrived to a property thick with wattle and very little hope. A self-confessed“ horsy chick “ from Cape Town with no wine experience Leanne and Brendan Lane have attacked the project with vigor and Leanne has the hands to show it (she proudly made a point of showing me.)
‘”Making bubbly isn’t for sissies “ is a phrase used often by Gloria Strack and she too put down the secateurs to show me her hands. Those hands have helped produce the excellent Plettenvale Brut rose MCC .This no nonsense lady in her sixties put her 4×4 in low range and gave me a personal tour of her and husband Martin’s land, which was supposed to be a slow, low maintenance retirement project.
“ I love this lifestyle to death she says “ and not even the loss of 1.6 tons of grapes to bush pigs in a night of total devastationin 2013 can get her down. She has no plans to eradicate the creatures that share her land but rather to keep them out humanely.
Keeping up with Vicky Gent of Packwood Country Estate while she shows off her 830 hectare beef and dairy pastures is not easy. Bustling and passionate, she tells of the need to keep diversifyingin agriculture. Something her and her husband Peter learnt while farming in Berkshire , UK before arriving in Harkerville in 1997. They decided to put in their first grapes 2006 but not before a doing a lot of research. They are born farmers and they believe they “ have been given a feel” for their small and compact harvest.
Packwood is a superb farm and is fast becoming a big player on the wine route.Their views over the lands and herds are simply stunning.
Just when I was wondering whether all of Plett’s wine farms were run by hard working women owners,I popped into Newstead where Sue Lund was trimming roses, taking a lunch booking, pouring me a cup of tea and was about to fetch more organic fertilizer before picking up the kids.
Plett’s wine route farms are almost all worked under the watchful eye of the owner’s who seem to have lives with kidsand tasks and whogo their about daily activities while living on the farm. This you will not experience at the larger historical estates found in the Cape where the owners sit in boardrooms and watch their investments,being run by strangers, from a far.
Doug Lund of Newstead – Lund Family Vineyardsis one man on the route whose feet never seem to touch the ground. This ex international polo player brings a rich farming heritage to this Crags vineyard. “Quality is our angle”, says wife Sue, “and always will be.” Like Redford Lane, Newstead has expanded its tasting and restaurant area and will be open in time for season.If you want to see the who’s who of Plett during season time then their summer solstice party on the 21st of December is a must!
I found myself looking for whales in the Indian Ocean when I visited Anderson Vineyards at the top of the Keurbooms plateau.I felt like rolling a bottle of their Letto Venus Sauvignon Blanc down the hill right to my seaside table at Enricos.
Ian Anderson is also anew kid on the wine block and has cultivated just 1.5 hectares before bottling a first harvest in 2011. Ian now believes he is living in paradise and when sitting next to the dam over looking the sea, it is impossible to disagree.
While I sipped a last glass of bubbly at Bramon on a busy Sunday afternoon lunch , I looked back to where I had just come from and the farms I had just visited. The thing that stood out for me most were the people, the owners… the drivers of the PlettWinelands. Getting their hands dirty… a passionate group of people who are working enthusiastically together on a project that can only grow. Plett Winelands is already the most beautiful in the land but soon it may be the most talked about as well.
Cheers to that.