However, the evening was not without its snags and bumps. Parking in Cape Town is always a problem. You either arrive really early and wait for things to get going, or you come a little later and park miles up the road.
In theory, meandering from room to room to sample collections of wine and the paired canapés sounds grand: a quest of discovery. But a large group of slightly inebriated people in a confined space can cause a problem. Not only was there limited space in which to sit, but most of the canapes were served in bowls, which requires two hands: one to hold the bowl and one to use the fork or spoon. Since one hand was almost permanently engaged by a wine glass, some more surface area would have been a blessing.
Nevertheless, the evening was a great success. One taste of Graham Beck’s Chardonnay Brut 1994 and all concerns float away on the delightful bubbles. The Graham Beck Shiraz 2012 paired with the oxtail ragout from Catharina’s restaurant at Steenberg was a match made in foodie heaven. Some of the stand-out tastings were Almenkerk’s Chardonnay Reserve, Newton Johnson 2014 Chardonnay, Hamilton Russell’s Pinot Noir, and Vriesenhof’s Chardonnay.
Then there was the Champagne. Yes, real Champagne from France, of which Jacquart’s 2006 Chardonnay-based Brut is a fine example. Drappier Carte D’Or Champagne, which spent five years on the lees, was surprisingly fresh and crisp, like green apples. Of our own home-grown Methode Cap Classique, the creamy Fillia Chenin Blanc MCC, Domaines des Dieux (from the Hemel en Aarde Valley) Claudia Brut MCC, and Bon Courage’s Jacques Bruêre Brut Reserve 2009, which is a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend, were all firm favourites.
The Big Bottle Festival is certainly a fine example of just how fantastic the food and wine industry of South Africa is. Capetonians are spoiled for choice with the country’s wine cellar at their doorstep. We may have much to complain about (loadshedding, the struggling economy, the impending doom of e-tolls) but at least we can complain over a glass of some of the finest (and reasonably priced) wines in the world. That is worth celebrating.