Cape Town - It’s proving to be a short, steep learning curve. When the McGregor Heritage Society committee discussed how best to celebrate the village’s 150th anniversary, diverse events and projects were mooted.

The proposal that valley wineries be approached for a 100-litre donation of their best red wine for the making of a McGregor 150 Heritage blend was enthusiastically received. Profits from sales would help boost society funds, as this registered non-profit organisation relies solely on membership subscriptions.

Moreover, the making of a birthday blend in a tranquil village set in one of the most popular Western Cape wineland regions, would be a fun project. Well, yes… most of the time. As we unravelled the details of endless forms required (in triplicate) by this carefully regulated industry, our respect for those who make wine for a living increased.

Cabernet, shiraz and a pinotage-merlot blend were delivered on due date by Lord’s Wines, Kingsriver Estate, McGregor Cellar, Tanagra Private cellar, Koningsrivier and Buffalo Creek to Tanagra’s cellar, where Robert Rosenbach hosted blending and bottling.

Previously Elmo du Plessis, winemaker at McGregor cellar, had experimented with small samples of the donors’ wines to effect the best blend, approved by other contributors. Robert then filtered the wine and, on the following day, my better half spent many hours bottling the blend, which Robert boxed and topped with capsules.

Local generosity had been matched by contributions from the industry, with bottles donated by The Bottle Trader in Worcester, corks by Amorim and boxes by Seyfert in Cape Town.

Kingsriver Estate was our next benefactor, as Ruud de Clercq agreed to take transfer and add the blend to his stock as a licensed producer. More forms were required for a second transfer as we trundled the boxes over to his cellar, and calculated the tax we now owed to the SA Revenue Service, at R2.50 a litre.

As the wine settled in its new home, we turned our attention to certification (and forms) and labelling (and approval thereof).

Villager Rodney Sandwith designed an appealing front and descriptive back label, then patiently effected the changes required by the labelling department of the SA Wine and Spirit Board, which presents a formidable list of rules on what may and may not be on labels, size type, colour background, and more.

At time of writing we are anxiously waiting for our labels to arrive from the printers, and once attached, the wine has to go for final certification to the board.

With the festival date, also launch date, of September 1 looming, I asked Callie van der Merwe, who heads the local team, if we could hurry this along . “Oh yes,” he said, “apply for a Speedline – and we’ll will do it within a day or two.”

“A BG 9 form,” I query.

“No this time it’s a BG 11,” he replies, “And an extra R200. Ja, I think you’d better do that.”

The McGregor 150 Rip-Roaring Red has been rated a delicious success by those who have tasted it. It’s young and fruity, balanced with tannins and wood, lending discernible backbone. Ready to drink, certainly, but it will, according to the fundis, improve over the next year or two. The Heritage Society will sell it at a budget-friendly price as well as offering discounts on cases of six, prompting winemaker Elmo du Plessis to remark that “we are definitely overdelivering on quality”.

At the 2012 McGregor Food and Wine Festival, valley cellars will pour their red, white and rosé wines, along with the district’s first organic bubbly. The country fare will be traditional and trendy, and include Le Chasseur extra virgin unfiltered olive oil and Sandwith’s satiny, unpasteurised Greek-style yoghurt.

Crafts, art, entertainment and a trail run are also on the menu.

The festival takes place on September 1, from 10am in the Dutch Reformed Church hall and surrounds in the main street. Entrance costs R60, which includes glass and wine tasting. Restaurants will create special festival menus.

Weekend visitors should book accommodation before arrival. Contact 023 625 1954 for more information or e-mail [email protected]

It’s spring and Franschhoek celebrates

The advent of spring is being celebrated in the Franschhoek valley on September 1 and 2 with the annual Franschhoek Uncorked festival, when local cellars release their new vintages and present barrel tasting and cellar tours.

A fresh food market will attract gourmets and music lovers will relish live music ranging from jazz to French classics.

Festival armbands cost R100, from the Franschhoek Wine Valley office and at farms taking part. The cost includes a glass and tastings. Call 021 876 2861 or visit www.franschhoekuncorked.co.za.

* The beautiful Paradyskloof will be the focus of the Cellar2Cellar trail run and wine experience on Saturday, September 8. Starting and finishing at Blaauwklippen, the 12km route winds its way through Stellenrust, Dornier, Kleinood, Waterford and Stellenzicht, where pit stops will tempt runners to linger and taste, and sample cheese on their journey. They will be serenaded by musicians as well. There is also a 20km run for more dedicated runners.

Entrance costs range from R120 to R160 to R285, depending on which run visitors choose. For more, visit www.cellar2cellar.co.za or www.enteronline.co.za. - Weekend Argus