Harvest festivals in the Cape Winelands

Enjoy the fruits of the winemakers’ labour at these stomping soirees in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and surrounds

During summer in Cape Town, everything comes alive: the mountain glows a brilliant green, the azure skies sing with cheerful birds, the seas dance with surfers and swimmers and even the nightclubs blossom with a multitude of foreign booze-seekers. So it’s no wonder that this happens to be the time that the Cape Winelands’ vineyards are at their ripest and readiest too, spilling over with plump grapes waiting to be plucked and blended.

To pay homage to this period of plenty, the region’s many award-winning wine farms – and there are many ­– host vibrant harvest festivals that, like the traditional celebrations of past, give thanks for the year’s yield and rejoice in the abundance of fruit that was reaped. These lively, family-friendly soirees typically feature stomping contests, blending workshops, food markets, pairing sessions, cellar tours, live music and more.

In short, they’re the sort of fiestas you don’t want to miss out on. So, to make sure you don’t pass up the opportunity, and to ensure you have the liveliest Mother City summer possible, we’ve gathered together a rundown of some of the top, most memorable harvest festivals in the Cape Winelands below. From interactive jubilees in Robertson to delicious fruity feasts in Durbanville, this guide includes options for infants and elders, casual drinkers and connoisseurs.

2015 WINE HARVEST FESTIVALS IN THE CAPE WINELANDS

Stellenbosch Wine Festival (30 January – 1 February 2015)
In 2015, the ever-popular Stellenbosch Wine Festival boasts a new format and a new venue and brings all the festivities together under one roof at the Coetzenburg Sports Ground. The main event, which runs from Friday, 30 January to Sunday, 1 February 2015 (it’s much shorter than it has been in previous years) will feature vino from around 70 different Stellenbosch farms, a Gourmet Lane that’s dotted with the stalls of top local restaurants, a number of food and wine pairing experiences, a grape stomping ground, a supervised kiddies’ area with a jumping castle and water slide and more. What’s more, there will be live music performed by acclaimed South Africa artists. Visitors can also look forward to a harvest parade through the streets, a golf challenge, a 5-km women’s walk and an 18-km mountain bike ride. Do note: individual wine estates – there are over 148 in total in the area – will still also host their own unique activities throughout the three days, so be sure to check the respective farm websites for more details on these.
Tickets: Tickets for the main event can be purchased from Webticket.co.za or at the festival entrance on the day, and prices are R170 for adults and R60 for children under the age of 18; kids below 3 get in for free. Individual events at the various wine farms must be bought from the farms themselves and prices vary depending on the activity.
Coetzenburg Sports Ground | Coetzenburg Road | Stellenbosch | +27 (0) 21 426 5775

Delheim Start of Harvest Celebration (31 January – 1 February 2015)
To celebrate the beginning of the 2015 grape harvest, revered Stellenbosch estate Delheim, which is best known for its top-notch Merlot, is hosting a fun family-friendly vine-to-wine affair from Saturday, 31 January to Sunday, 1 February 2015. Visitors to the picturesque farm will be treated to a free glass of fermenting grape must and complimentary mosbolletjies (sweet bread rolls) before enjoying a buffet-style picnic lunch on the verdant greens that line the river’s edge. The highlight of the affair, however, is the grape stomping contest that will see teams roll barrels, grab grapes and smash the purple-skinned fruit enthusiastically to determine who can produce the most juice (great prizes are up for grabs). Little ones can play to their hearts’ content in the outside area, so this is certainly an event fit for the whole family.
Tickets: 
Tickets cost R285p/p per day for adults and R175p/p per day for children under the age of 12; kids younger than two enter for free. Pre-booking is essential, and tickets are limited to 120 per day.
Delheim Wine Estate | Knorhoek Road | Simonsberg Ward | Stellenbosch | +27 (0)21 888 4600

Riesling and Rarities Rock Festival at Hartenberg Wine Estate (31 January 2015)
This fun harvest celebration pays respects to the aromatic German cultivar Riesling. Hosted at the acclaimed Hartenberg Wine Estate in Stellenbosch (the farm is well known for both its rich Riesling and its award-winning Shiraz), the garden party gives festival-goers the chance to sip and sample various versions of the versatile European white from a number of different Cape Winelands estates, including Paul Cluver, Nitida and Nederburg. What’s more, this year’s event is slightly different as it also features an assortment of rare varietals (hence the inclusion of ‘rarities’ in the festival name), like Semillon, Pinot Grigio and Viognier, produced by local farms. And because vino just isn’t the same without food, there’ll be an array of savoury and sweet eats on offer from on-site deli stalls and the option to pre-book a picnic basket for R150p/p (this can be done via Webtickets.co.za). Not to mention, visitors can expect live music to top off a fabulous day of harvest fun in the sun.
Tickets: Entrance to the Riesling and Rarities Rock festival costs R120p/p (children under 18 get in for free), and tickets can be bought online via Webtickets.co.za or at the gate on the day.
Bottelary Road (M23) | Stellenbosch | +27 (0) 21 865 2541

Bubbles and Braai at Grande Roche Hotel (31 January, 28 February and 28 March 2015)
The sophisticated Bubbles and Braai fiesta at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl is a sterling, sparkling way to pay homage to the yield of our local lands, and this year, the event has been extended to take place on three different dates during harvest season: 31 January, 28 February and 28 March 2015. The culinary affairs pair a selection of succulent barbequed steaks, chops, ribs and seafood prepared by the property’s head chef with an assortment of South African Méthode Cap Classiques. Visitors will be able to meet some of the winemakers and learn more about what goes into producing the perfect bubbly before enjoying the braaied eats, which are served with salads and sides. It’s a winning combination of elements that’s bound to make for a spectacular summer evening.
Tickets: Tickets to these exclusive events cost R495p/p and can be booked by phoning the hotel on the number below or mailing christine@granderoche.co.za.
Plantasie Street | Paarl | +27 (0) 21 863 5100

Hanepoot Grape Picking at De Krans Wine Cellar (4 February – 28 February 2015)
Although De Krans Wine Cellar near Calitzdorp doesn’t host its own defined harvest fair, it does give locals a chance to celebrate that time of year when the grapes are ripe and ready by opening their vines up for public picking. Every Monday to Saturday between Wednesday, 4 February and Saturday, 28 Feb 2015, those from the area can visit the farm and fill containers with delicious Hanepoot grapes plucked straight from the branches. On Wednesdays and Saturdays during this time, pickers can also fill their bellies with braai food – think chops, boerewors, salad and freshly baked bread – cooked over the coals on the property. Not to mention, De Krans wine and port is available for purchase to pair with the barbeque lunch, and those who simple want to sample the wine can do so for R20p/p.
Tickets: Picked grapes cost R6.50p/kg; the price of the braai lunch is yet to be confirmed. Booking is essential for the lunch.
Route 62 | Calitzdorp | +27 (0) 44 213 3314

Robertson Wine Valley’s Hands-on Harvest Festival (7 February – 29 March 2015)
As its name suggests, this region-wide festival, which features over 20 wineries and estates from across the charming Robertson Wine Valley, invites vino devotees to get actively involved in the harvesting and winemaking process. Stretching over seven full weeks from Saturday, 7 February to Sunday, 29 March 2015 (it was just a one-weekend affair in 2013), the vine extravaganza gives visitors the chance to do everything from grape picking, bunch sorting and wine blending to vineyard walks, cellar tours and picnic lunches. Specific highlights include options like a bubbly-making workshop, live piano music, a magical cellar dinner and a fruit and wine pairing experience.  All events are open to only small groups so as to keep things intimate, and while some activities run throughout the festival, others are held on only one or two days during the period.
Tickets: Prices vary depending on the specific event, and each activity must be booked directly with the estate hosting it at least three days before the event.
Robertson Wine Valley | +27 (0)23 626 3167

Môreson Blessing of the Harvest Festival (7 February 2015)
Idyllic family-run farm Môreson, which sits pretty at the end of Happy Valley Road in Franschhoek, challenges anyone interested in winemaking to try their feet at grape pressing at the estate’s annual Blessing of the Harvest festival on Saturday, 7 February 2015. Eager visitors will first disappear into the winery’s vineyards to fill their baskets with the land’s bounty before squishing and squashing the fruit into flowing juice, like winemakers would do many years ago. The stomping is followed by an exciting label design competition (the winning sketch will appear on the 2015 harvest bottle) and a scrumptious feast at the on-site Bread & Wine Vineyard Restaurant. Patrons can match their meals with Môreson’s award-winning reds, whites and Méthode Cap Classiques and can ultimately take their own bottle of foot-pressed harvest wine home (though, this will only be ready for collection in November 2015).
Tickets: The cost of this experience is R520p/p, and this price includes all of the above as well as a glass of bubbly on arrival. Kids are welcome and are charged at R225p/p (for little ones between the ages of 5 and 14). Booking is essential.
Happy Valley Road | Franschhoek | +27 (0) 21 876 4004

Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate 2015 Harvest Festival (28 February 2015)
Boasting a lengthy history that stretches over 300 years, this grand Cape Dutch-style estate in the pretty Franschhoek Valley is a particularly majestic spot to pay homage to the vino harvest. On Saturday, 28 February 2015, the 30-hectare farm invites wine lovers to participate in its annual summer festival, which features everything from a tractor ride into the vineyards and an old-fashioned stomping competition to a cellar tour and live entertainment. The fun is followed by a decadent buffet feast prepared by the estate’s gifted executive chef. Overall, the fest is a perfect way for family and friends to enjoy a ‘grape’ day out in the sun.
Tickets: Adults pay R650p/p and kids younger than 12 years of age are charged R350p/p to enjoy all of the above. It’s essential to book beforehand, and this can be done by contacting the estate.   
Main Road | Franschhoek | +27 (0) 21 876 8600

Muratie Harvest Festival (28 February 2015)
Steeped in centuries of rich history, the family-owned Muratie wine farm in Stellenbosch’s Knorhoek Valley is an easygoing, old-world spot to share in the harvest-time festivities. On Saturday, 28 February 2015, the long-term owners of the farm invite family and friends to join them in gratitude for the rich crops reaped this year and celebrate outside under the estate’s ancient oak trees.  Here, in the fresh summer breeze, guests can sip on Muratie’s sterling wines (everyone gets a complimentary glass on arrival), snack on eats from the on-site Farm Kitchen (options include hamburgers, cheese platters and more) and soak up the catchy sounds of the Kitchen Jammin’ Blues Band. Of course, both little and big kids can also hike up their trousers and have some foot-stomping fun squishing barrels of freshly plucked grapes. Plus, there’ll be cellar and vineyard tours running and the first 20 people that book can also enjoy an intimate vertical wine tasting (the sampling of different vintages of the same varietal) at midday (this costs an additional R100p/p).
Tickets: Entrance to this harvest festival is entirely FREE, but food and drinks are for patrons’ own account.
Knorhoek Road | Koelenhof | Stellenbosch | +27 (0) 21 865 2330

Darling Cellars Crush Day (28 February 2015)
Even the small West Coast town of Darling jumps on the harvest festival bandwagon annually . This year, the esteemed Darling Cellars is hosting its yearly do on Saturday, 28 February 2015, and as always, the family-friendly shindig begins bright and early at 8am before the sweltering heat of the day settles in. Visitors will kick off the festivities with a light breakfast of yoghurt, juice and more before taking a tractor into the vineyards, where they’ll pick their own grapes. It’s then onto the stomping, crushing, trudging and squishing, which will be followed by a wine label design contest and a delicious lamb spit braai lunch featuring an assortment of tasty trimmings. Kids can participate in a host of fun activities, including face painting and a treasure hunt, or cool off with a ride down the water slide, and adults can also look forward to live music and market stalls. All this amidst the tranquil, rural scenery of the Darling area makes for an especially enjoyable way to get in on the harvest hype.
Tickets: Passes to take part in Crush Day can be secured by completing the booking form on the Darling Cellars website (darlingcellars.co.za) and mailing it to tasting@darlingcellars.co.za. Tickets cost R250p/p for adults, R150p/p for teenagers aged 13 to 17 years and R100p/p for children below the age of 12.   
R315 | Mamre Weg Station | Darling | +27 (0) 22 492 2276

Eikendal Weintaufe Harvest Celebration (1 March 2015)
Once a small ceremony intended to give thanks for the harvest, Eikendal wine estate’s annual grape gala is now a large celebratory event eagerly anticipated by many. The vibrant affair – it happens on Sunday, 1 March 2015 this year – is ideal for everyone, from the teeniest tot to the greyest grandpa, and boasts a full programme that includes options like grape stomping, vineyard walks, cheetah viewing, laidback live entertainment, lucky draw prizes, face painting and pony and tractor rides. Visitors can also pick up some wine and grub from the on-site restaurant and picnic on the edge of the property’s glistening dams (just be sure to bring your own blanket), and as a highlight, guests can sample the brand new 2015 Chardonnay (Eikendal is known for this varietal) directly from the barrel – a rare harvest-time treat.
Tickets: Entrance costs only R40p/p for adults, and tickets will be on sale at the gate on the day; kiddies younger than 12 years of age can enjoy the festivities for free. Entrance includes a complimentary glass and barrel tasting of the Eikendal Chardonnay. 
R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West | +27 (0) 21 855 1422

ATKV Oesfees (formerly the Franschhoek Oesfees) (21 March 2015)
Bringing the lush grounds of Solms-Delta wine estate to life on Saturday, 21 March 2015, this authentic annual harvest festival, which is now in its eighth year, aims to not only show appreciation for the bounty reaped from Franschhoek’s fields, but also to give thanks to the farm workers that made the harvest possible. First and foremost a music festival, the lively fiesta shows gratitude through song, featuring a huge number of local musicians performing a range of traditional Mzansi genres, including Cape jazz, langarmboeremusiek and ghoema. More specifically, the line-up this year includes the likes of Elvis Blue, Emo Adams, Koos Kombuis, the Radio Kalahari Orkes, Hot Water and more. To extend the celebration of Boland culture, a medley of local dishes – think waterblommetjie bredie, lamb afvalroosterkoek, breyani and snoek en patat – will be on sale alongside Solms-Delta wines. With plenty of entertainment for the tiny tots and a general atmosphere of joy, the Oesfees promises to be a particularly happy harvest celebration for all.
Tickets: Festival passes can be bought online via Plankton.mobi at R99p/p for adults if you’re early enough and R120p/p thereafter. Children aged 2 to 12 pay R35p/p and this includes access to the kiddies’ play area (little ones younger than 2 are free). A limited number of tickets will also be sold at the gate on the day for R150p/p.
Delta Road | Groot Drakenstein | Franschhoek Valley | +27 (0) 21 874 3937

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Read more about another seasonal Western Cape pastime: strawberry picking in Cape Town and Stellenbosch.

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