Wine and Whales in South Africa’s Western Cape
Round-up of The Hermanus Wine and Food Fair by Lonely Planet author Lucy Corne.
Hermanus, South Africa is 1.5 hours to the west of Cape Town. Originally named Hermanuspietersfontein, its main language is Afrikaans.
The wind was wailing outside, but inside the tents it was all smiles at the 15th annual Hermanus Wine and Food Fair. The pretty coastal town of Hermanus, South Africa is best known for its superlative land-based whale-watching opportunities, but wine-loving locals and foodie travellers took a few days away from scanning the sea for breaching Southern Right Whales to honour another local attraction – wine.
The Western Cape is well known for its wine, though visitors often stick to the more famous towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl to get their tasting fix. But Hermanus sits at the heart of a number of excellent but often overlooked wine routes, including Elgin, Stanford and the Hemel-en Aarde Valley, famous for its delectable Pinot Noirs. The festival featured wines from the entire Overberg region – and wine lovers from much further afield. While many of those sipping on the complimentary tasters were locals, lots more made the short and picturesque drive from Cape Town, including international travellers from a host of countries. All roads to Hermanus are exceptionally beautiful whether you opt for the quickest route from Cape Town, where the highway winds through a mountain pass, or the simply stunning Clarence drive, hugging the coast and offering breath-taking vistas across False Bay.
The three-day fair filled a marquee pitched in the grounds of the town’s Wine Village, which serves as a one-stop shop for those seeking to taste local wines but without the time to go farm-to-farm, with more than 700 producers from across the Western Cape represented. Tickets were needed to enter the wine tasting area, with a ZAR95 (£7.00/$11.00) ticket getting you an elegant, large wine glass and free tasting of the wines on offer. And there was much more than wine for booze lovers to sample, with two boutique distilleries showcasing their handmade gins, vodkas and a much raved about absinthe. There was also handcrafted cider on offer and while there was one port to taste and a couple of MCCs (Methode Cap Classique, the local name for Champagne), it was the crisp Sauvignon Blancs, peppery Shirazes and tart Pinot Noirs that really stole the show.
For those more interested in nibbling than sipping, entrance to the food tent was free and filled with locally-produced cheese, cured meats, organic nibbles and a host of enticing baked goodies for dessert. The big hit of the food tent though was Piroschka’s Kitchen, with their Flammkuchen, a pizza-like dish whose subtle flavours married perfectly with a glass of bubbles.
The atmosphere was chilled as the crowd – largely wine enthusiasts – milled around sipping, savouring and sometimes spitting. Some were there just for the tasters, while others took advantage of the cellar door prices and the special discounts available. Away from the wine, live music played, kids got their faces painted and families shopped for food and crafts both within the tent and the rest of the Wine Village beyond. And if the wine tasting ever got too much, the town’s world-famous whale watching was only a short drive away.
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