Now is a good time to immerse oneself in the history and artistry of Stellenbosch – and not forgetting its wines! Explore the new season in our list of ten things to do this Autumn.
Ten things to do this autumn in the Winelands
1. Stellenbosch Triennale
From 11 February to 30 April 2020, the first Stellenbosch Triennale is showcasing the works of sought-after African artists. The brainchild of the Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust, the Triennale will make use of venues across town to exhibit works in response to its theme Tomorrow There Will Be More of Us. The Curators’ Exhibition, compiled by chief curator Khanyisile Mbongwa with co-curators Dr Bernard Akoi-Jackson and Dr Mike Tigere Mavura, features 20 artists from a range of African countries who interpret this theme. Other major exhibitions and spaces to look out for include On the Cusp, featuring 10 young African artists, at the Distell Manor House in Dorp Street; the Concepts of Freedom film festival at the Triennale office in Dorp Street and at Pulp Cinema; From the Vault, showcasing the prized African art collections of two universities, at the University Museum in Ryneveld Street; Die Braak Pavilion is staged on the Braak; and Creative Dialogues at the Woodmill Lifestyle Centre in Devon Valley.
Triennale guided tours that form part of the Woordfees programme are led by Stellenbosch Visio editor Francé Beyers and Dr Mavura, one of the curators, on 9 and 10 March; they start at the Woodmill Lifestyle Centre at 10am and last for three hours. Guided day tours are also available on request; email email@example.com to find out more.
Stellenbosch Hills Polkadraai-and-Popcorn is the ultimate anti-serious wine pairing and the perfect reason to visit Stellenbosch Hills this autumn. Gourmet popcorn by Guzzle & Wolf is paired with wines such as Polkadraai Sauvignon Blanc Brut, Polkadraai Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc, Polkadraai Rosé (made from Shiraz) and Polkadraai Pinotage/Merlot – and the experience is sure to result in lots of fun. The gourmet popcorn flavours are Coconut & Chia Seeds, Salted Caramel, Cinnamon & Pretzel, and Dark Chocolate. Stellenbosch Hills is located at the corner of the R310 and Vlottenburg Road.
Fleur du Cap Wine and salt? Yes, the team at Fleur du Cap believes that salt can improve wine and give it a smoother, richer texture. After all, the character of salt, like that of wine, is influenced by area, climate and the elements. Discover the unusual combination of Fleur du Cap wines and salt-rich morsels at the cellar’s daily wine tastings, where seasoned butter popcorn is paired with Sauvignon Blanc, green olive tapenade with Chardonnay, carpaccio of beef with Merlot, duck rillette with Cabernet Sauvignon, and red Alaea fudge with Noble Late Harvest. Fleur du Cap lies at the corner of Adam Tas and George Blake roads in Stellenbosch.
3. Walk through Stellenbosch’s history
As you stroll the oak-lined avenues of Stellenbosch and admire the charm of Cape Dutch architecture, you can learn all about what the town’s colourful inhabitants have been getting up to over the past three centuries. With the Stellenbosch on Foot team, you’ll hear interesting facts and fables about the past, like where Simon van der Stel set up camp along the Eerste River and that the first Christian church in South Africa was built in Stellenbosch and today is the site of the country’s oldest hotel. Another ‘oldest’ – the oldest residential street in South Africa – is Dorp Street, ‘the wagon way to Cape Town’. It’s still the wagon way to the Mother City, but the wagons have changed a little! Tours last for about 90 minutes and are offered at 9am, 11am and 3pm from Monday to Friday and at 9am and 11am on Saturday and Sunday. They cost R180 per person for at least two people.
4. Woordfees turns 21!
Make sure you’re in Stellenbosch between 6 and 15 March to join the celebrations for the 21st birthday of Toyota SU Woordfees. Festival-goers can once again look forward to theatre productions, visual art, music, children’s entertainment, the popular discourse conversation sessions and much more. There are no fewer than 60 plays to choose from, and 24 of them are making a festival debut. Saartjie Botha, the director of Woordfees, is excited about the number of new authors appearing in the 2020 short story collection. “It’s pleasing to know that 12 of the 26 writers published in the volume are new voices,” she says. “With new voices come new stories and fresh angles.” With a title the same as the Woordfees 2020 theme – Aanhou beweeg en geraas maak – the collection will be on sale at the festival. Sixteen sections make up Woordfees, offering more than enough for every taste and preference. The full programme is available on the website.
5. Rupert Museum
At the bottom end of historic Dorp Street you’ll find the Rupert Museum, home to a superb collection of South African and international art collected by the late Dr Anton Rupert and his wife Huberte between 1940 and 2006. On the last Saturday of every month (28 March, 25 April and 30 May), visitors can look forward to a full programme of activities. Each month’s line-up will include talks by artists, walkabouts, art workshops and wine pairings, as well as live music and a special menu at the café. Each Saturday’s programme will be posted on the Rupert Museum’s website and social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram) two weeks before the event. Certain items on the programme have limited space and booking is essential.
6. Getting creative with ceramics
The Crafter’s Corner is a project of the Living Arts Foundation, a non-profit initiative that works to uplift local communities through education, social events and arts and crafts. It is located at The Shed in Stellenbosch and provides free ceramics classes for women who live and work on local farms, encouraging them to nurture their creative skills and use their new knowledge to generate additional income. The Crafter’s Corner team also offers ceramics classes to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays to help subsidise the community programme. Beginner and advanced students are invited to join the weekly sessions to experience the creative and meditative art of making ceramics.
7. Blues night at Balboa Balcony Bar
On Thursday evenings after 9pm, sweet sounds of music drift through the air on Andringa Street. Follow those sounds and you’ll find yourself at Balboa Balcony Bar, where Thursday night is blues night and the foot stomping goes on until 2am. The ambience is our favourite part of this bar. Inside the lights are dimmed, making the atmosphere more intimate, but with the music playing in the background you still get the social feel of a bar. It comes as no surprise that this spot is a firm favourite among locals and tourists alike. Tables lining the street side of the restaurant give you a leafy view of life below. Alternatively, you can relax on one of the many couches or a high chair at the bar, or dance the night away on the dancefloor. Balboa brings new and established names to the stage, like Basson Laubscher, Mr Cat and the Jackal, Gerald Clarke and Valiant Swart. It’s a great late-night hangout for a more mature crowd (no under 23s), and there are wood-fired pizzas, burgers, beef brisket tacos and pork belly sliders to keep up the energy levels. Entrance is R30 per person.
8. Take a hike – or two
De Waal Wines The oldest Pinotage vineyard in the world, Top of the Hill, is the goal of this 2km walk, which starts at the farm’s tasting venue and is hosted by owner Pieter de Waal. Pieter has many interesting stories to tell guests as they stroll through vineyards to the giant fig tree that grows alongside the 69-year-old Pinotage bush vines. The last walk of the season takes place on 28 March and, including the wine tasting and cheese lunch, will last 4–5 hours. The cost of R295 per person covers a tasting of Top of the Hill Pinotage 2015 in the vineyards, plus four other wines on your return from the walk; a cheese luncheon; and a glass of wine from the Young Vines range. Reservations must be made at least four days in advance; contact Helga by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waterkloof A guided walk around the Waterkloof wine estate will take you into the heart of the Cape Floristic Region, one of the foremost biodiversity hotspots in the world. The farm, nestled among indigenous flora on the slopes of the Schapenberg, is a WWF Biodiversity and Wine Initiative Champion and has set aside almost 50% of its area for conservation. The two-hour walk begins at 10am or 4.30pm, concludes with a four-course lunch or dinner, and costs R1 310 or R1 560 (with wine pairing). Booking is essential, 48 hours in advance.
9. Stellenbosch Wine Bus
As the latest hop-on, hop-off wine tour service in town, Stellenbosch Wine Bus makes it easy, fun, safe and affordable to visit South Africa’s premier wine farms. The bus collects passengers from the Stellenbosch Information Centre at 36 Market Street in the morning, then follows a recurring circuit that takes 55–65 minutes to complete, visiting six or seven wine farms, depending on the route. The same timetable is followed every hour until it’s time to return to town in the late afternoon (5–5.30pm). You are free to hop on or off along the way at any of the stops, so that in a full day’s tour you are likely to visit up to four wineries of your choice, at your own pace. The ticket price does not include wine tastings, lunch and other activities at each stop. Remember to take a hat, sunscreen and water. For more information and to view specific locations on offer, go to stellenboschwinebus.co.za.
10. Re-imagining the Arts (RADA) Exhibition
Stellenbosch University’s very own art gallery, GUS, will host the RADA Exhibition from 30 March to 30 April with the aim of providing a broader and more inclusive perspective on the production of art in and around Stellenbosch. The project on which the exhibition is based documented material culture – objects, traces and/or events – among local communities and in under-represented areas. During the course of it, discussions evolved as stories and art techniques and mediums were shared, and this sharing became the catalyst for the exhibition. The RADA project engaged in interactions, documenting and recording interviews that were uploaded onto a database accessible to communities inside and outside the university. In this way, it distributes knowledge that is more representative than was previously the case, and was collected in a more democratic manner. The complex processes involved in community engagement through actual experience enabled both lecturers and community members to rethink the relationship between the university and the communities around Stellenbosch – and this exhibition is the result.