The scenic Vinyard Donkey Walk, a relaxed wine experience for real wine lovers

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>click< to enlarge: Amanda Hyde on her donkey walk through the Polkadraai Hills (Picture Eric Nathan)

London Sunday Times / Mai 2010

Read here about Amanda Hyde's experience on the Donkey Walk through the Polkadraai Hills

 Who said wine tours were only for buffs? They’re fun for all in South Africa’s Cape Winelands, says a tipsy Amanda Hyde (London Times)
(extract, read full article here / pdf  3,9MB)

....Determined to get back to basics, we double back towards Stellenbosch. Although most of the South African booze we buy in the UK comes from big wineries, there are hundreds of smaller vineyards here too. Bein is the tiniest of them all, just one, suntickled field in the Polkadraai Hills outside town. We’ve booked a tour here that’s the perfect antidote to our Quartier Français
marathon – a donkey-walking picnic.

‘Welcome, welcome,’ says Ingrid, who runs Bein alongside her husband Luca. ‘We won’t be a moment, we’ve just getting Marge ready.’ Marge is a donkey, who’s wearing the food we shall later eat during our wine-tasting. We’ll also be accompanied by Rolex, a proud Jack Russell, and Wanda, a demure bull-terrier.
We set off, tiny Ingrid with her windburn and gung-ho walk leading the pack, then us, then gangly Luca trailing behind, alabaster legs poking from socks and sandals. It takes 40 minutes to climb from Bein towards our picnic spot, but that’s probably because we stop so many times to admire the view – a picnic rug of green and gold plains topped by the butter-dish rectangle of
Table Mountain. And there’s the locals to contend with…

>click< to enlarge: Cape Eagle Owl, a common view in the Polkadraai Hills ‘Look at him,’ my dad says, pointing to a line of vines. An owl is sitting in its shade, staring at us angrily with huge yellow eyes. Amazed, we take a couple of steps nearer, but he intensifies his glare before flying off huffily towards the mountains. ‘Ah yes, he’s often there,’ says Luca when we tell him. ‘And these two,’ he signals overhead, at kestrels circling.

When we arrive at the tasting spot, it’s clear why Ingrid had stormed ahead. She’s laid out fresh pastries and local strawberries on a gingham tablecloth, to accompany a Bein Merlot and wines from the neighbours. The chief wine-taster (dad) takes about two minutes to finish a glass of the former (no spitting here!).
‘It’s great,’ he marvels. ‘Really smooth.’
So we polish off a whole bottle, and another of their immensely drinkable but cheaper rosé. Then we sunbathe contentedly as the dogs play on the grass and the donkeys munch on hay.

‘It’s like being in that French vineyard years ago,’ says mum dreamily. ‘But this time, there’s no horrid taste in my mouth.’ This may be wine-tasting at its most relaxed, but Luca takes his Merlot just as seriously as the big guns. As we leave, he shows me his field and I’m amazed. The vines each have the same number of branches, with the same number of stems, which each have the same number of bunches, which each have the same number of perfect, shiny grapes. I naively assume this is key to viniculture, until I see tangled messes harbouring an indiscriminate scattering of fruit at other wineries. Luca’s vines are the Disney versions – cartoon-like in their perfection.
(extract, read full article here / pdf  3,9MB)