Barrels & Beards festival showcases the excellence of unpretentious wine
Soon, Bot River winemakers will return to the tribe where Gandalf, Lincoln, Chuck Norris, Castro and their bearded ilk hold sway. And as has become the most memorable fashion, they’ll ignite a party like no other. Now in its 7th year, Barrels & Beards has become an institution to celebrate the new harvest of Bot River wine on its hallowed journey from the ocean-cooled vineyards of this magnificent valley to the wine-lover’s glass.
Bot River ranks amongst the most exciting winelands destinations, having defiantly maintained its own distinct, laid-back identity and focus on the creation of outstanding wines that are enjoyed all over the world.
Come Saturday, April 22 and those famed lyrics of that eponymous 1960s musical will be recalled once more: “She asks me why. I’m just a hairy guy; I’m hairy noon and night…” Because, that’s the date for the hip and hirsute Barrels & Beards party – to which everyone is invited. This year, Barrels & Beards again welcomes lovers of all things fun and delicious to a sumptuous dinner spread and to taste wines right from the latest vintage straight from the barrel during the festivity hosted once more on the hillside grounds of Barton Vineyards.
More than an occasion to, ahem, let hair down, Barrels & Beards highlights the vineyards of the valley that give rise to its unique wines; shines the spotlight on every individual who contributed; and, looks to the future with a ‘best of Bot’ wine auction of rare and special vintages to benefit the children of Bot River. To date the auction has raised nearly R200 000 with the help of enthuastic visitors to the occasion.
Producers taking part in the 2017 Barrels & Beards celebration are Anysbos, Barton, Beaumont Family Wines, Gabriëlskloof, Genevieve MCC, Goedvertrouw Wine Estate, Luddite Wines, Maremmana Estate, Momento Wines, Paardenkloof Estate, Rivendell Estate, Villion Family Wines and Wildekrans Boutique Wine Estate.
What has become tradition and now the reason for exuberance, began by quite accident. Grape harvest waits for no-one – when the fruit is ripe, it must be picked and taken to the cellar. It’s a festive time, the work of the preceding season having literally borne fruit. But there’s little time for sleep, so many forego time-consuming activities like shaving in favour of harvest and perhaps a little extra rest. Beards in the vineyards and cellar are not unusual at this time of year and certainly, more than a few have grown accustomed to the fuzzy features that seasonally appear in the mirror.
Now, the co-incidence has been put to good use by the winemakers of this close-knit wine region who deliberately undertake a self-imposed shaving ban during the harvest period. It was in 2010 that Luddite winemaker Niels Verburg first declared the challenge never before heard in these parts. He cast a steely eye at his colleagues across the valley and dared them to a grand and glorious Bot River clash of beards. The challenge has stuck.
Once the grapes are in – and to the delight of every partner, no doubt – the shaving ban ends. But not before the barrels are rolled out for a homegrown harvest party and the shaggy growth goes on display.
To great mirth all round, the annual Beard Parade is a hairy highlight of the event. Here, deep and earnest judges pluck and pull, stroke and measure to finally announce the winner of that esteemed and envied title of Best Bot Beard.
Then follows the auction of special Bot River wines, which benefits various school-level educational projects in the region and what has become known as the Botriviera dinner made with all things lekker and local. This year guests will be able to feast on the food of the valley with tables brimming with local produce and specialties.
“The evening is about feeling right at home,” says Bot River Wine Route co-ordinator and the bubbly personality behind Genevieve MCC, Melissa Nelsen.
“Help yourself; break bread with your new mate. Abundance is the hallmark of this menu and we’ll be supporting our local food producers.”
With the event returning to Barton Vineyards, event organizer Wilmari Geyer, who is married to Barton winemaker PJ, says the establishment is delighted to host the annual Bot River Barrel & Beards festival again. “After last year’s phenomenal success, we cannot wait to welcome back our friends and see what the beardy winemakers have up their sleeves to entertain everyone! Along with the dinner and show, we are also excited to treat a cool crowd to a barrel tasting of our young and old wines to get a true taste of us Botriverians from vineyard to glass.”
Bot River lies a mere one hour’s drive up the N2 highway from Cape Town. A divine country getaway, the region has long been known for its wine pioneers and mavericks. There are 13 wine farms, most of them family-owned and run, producing world class wines. Often mistakenly under estimated, Bot River is also renowned for its conservation initiatives.
“Bot River is not just a one night stand dorpie so why not make a weekend of it and come on over on Friday already to join us locals for a few cold ones on the stoep,” quips Kobie Viljoen, Chairperson of the Bot River Vineyards Association.
The 2017 Bot River Barrels & Beards showcase will take place on Saturday, 22 April 2017 at 5pm.