Marié and I recently had an amazing opportunity to attend Backsberg’s Harvest Celebration on the Backsberg Wine Estate in Paarl.
After an admittedly bumpy start to the day – Uber troubles, don’t ask – we were greeted by many smiling faces and a glass of ice-cold bubbly.
You may be thinking, as we had, why this celebration would take place now. After all, the 2019 harvest season has already passed. It was explained to us, as we sipped on our delicious welcoming drinks, that many people are not aware of what takes place after the harvesting process. We as consumers often don’t think of all the effort that goes into making wine after the grapes have been harvested from the vines. That amazing bottle of Shiraz sitting in your cupboard is not plucked fully-formed from the vineyards, after all!
Our action-packed and activity-filled day started off with all of us emulating grapes, and climbing into grape “tractors”, which took us on a trip through the vineyards. I must say, we quite enjoyed being grapes, especially if they have company as good as ours!
The day’s artistry was not lost on us, from the beautifully crafted harvest table, decked with a range of cheeses, jams and other treats, to the cellar tour that had us tasting wine straight from the tanks. We were even presented with an interactive demonstration on how to create our own harvest table centerpiece, offered by Storm from Holloway Floral Designs.
The mastery of each of these individual aspects made the day so much more enjoyable, especially after realising how much work, thought and dedication goes into perfecting each of these crafts, even if it is as seemingly simple as creating a harvest table. The careful balance of science and art that goes into making that bottle of Shiraz extends well past the planting and picking of the grapes. It goes into the soil, into the processing, as well as the bottling.
I think what impacted us the most was how effortless everyone made their craft seem. Storm gave us a step-by-step guide on how to create a beautiful harvest table decoration using indigenous plants, leaves and vines, created a stunning representation right in front of us, and inviting us to create our very own take-home pieces. It was definitely not as easy as it looked, and I now have a new appreciation for the art of floral arrangements. I can also attest to the fact that it is not my calling.
The cellar tour and the tank-tastings gave us a whole new appreciation for that rich, full-bodied bottle of wine that finds its way onto our tables. The experience of tasting red wine that had just completed malolactic fermentation, where the more sour malic acid is converted into smoother lactic acid in an anaerobic environment (I know, we learnt things too!), as well as the experience of trying the cloudy, unfiltered Sauvignon Blanc – which is totally suitable for drinking, by the way – opened our eyes to a whole new art. The art of wine-making.
Marié and I also loved learning about the sustainability and social responsibility that has become synonymous with the Backsberg name. With their “tread lightly” way of farming – which has also helped to create their Tread Lightly wine range, their Biodiversity in Wine Initiative (which makes use of the biodiversity best practice), their tree planting practices, among others, Backsberg is the first winery in South Africa to be carbon neutral, and has been awarded a WWF-SA Conservation Champion status. Personally, I feel that this achievement is an amazing example of what can be achieved when one aims beyond the norm.
A massive shoutout to Tarn for the warm invitation, to Bianca, for making us feel completely at home, to Storm from Holloway Floral Designs for presenting us with a beautiful demonstration, to Simon Back and Karel Malherbe for taking us on a very informative and enlightening vineyard walk, and, of course, to the winemaker herself, Alicia Rechner, for taking us on a cellar tour and giving us a very special peak into the art of making wine.