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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #173 (article first published : 2007-05-15)

For historical and other reasons the Robertson valley is perhaps not quite as fashionable a wine region as Stellenbosch or Paarl, but there is nothing wrong with the scenery or the people or the wines.

Quite the contrary in fact. The broad valley, flanked by the Langeberg and Riviersonderend mountains with the Breede River flowing at a leisurely pace in the middle, has a rugged charm all its own. The people, the farmers and the citizens of four main towns, Robertson, Bonnievale, Ashton and McGregor, are an attractive combination of country courtesy and modern enterprise. And the wines offer not only good quality but, generally speaking, very good value.

The Robertson valley is only 90 minutes’ drive from Cape Town but in the past it has not attracted a great many visitors, possibly because it lies between the two national roads running north and east from Cape Town, the N1 to Johannesburg and the N2 to Durban.

So the citizens and townspeople of the valley bestirred themselves and over the past three years they have staged a cheerfully-named Wacky Wine Weekend, three days of festivities to bring in newcomers.

Last year this event brought in more than 10,000 visitors, day-trippers and overnight guests, and this year the wacky weekend is to take place from June 1 to 3.

There are about 40 wineries in the valley, and obviously much of the activity will be focused on these, with cellar tours, wine tastings, brandy tastings and so forth. At one cellar you will be able to blend, bottle and label your own wine with the help of the winemaker.

There is plenty of emphasis on food, of course, from chocolate tastings and olive tastings to menus with Cape delicacies such as snoek and sweet potatoes, tomato stew, chicken pie, baked camembert in hanepoot preserve, and a salmon braai.

There are cruises on the Breede River, game drives, quad bike trails, dancing, fishing, golf, archery, and plenty of entertainment for children.

Glancing through the programme I was struck by the fact that many of the events are free and the charges for most of the others are modest, which seems to be in accordance with Robertson’s reputation for offering good value in wines.

If you are going to the Western Cape, this wacky weekend is well worth a visit. More information from Bonita Malherbe, manager of the Robertson Wine Valley, on 023 626 3167. – Michael Green




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