Location and Climate
The main vineyard contingent to this wine lies mostly on the south-facing, mid slopes, but includes lower parcels from the northern slope, in the porphyritic Granite soils of the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. This appellation ranges from 4 to 8 km in proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. The climate is cool and temperate, where parallel mountain ranges channel the southerly oceangoing winds through the appellation during the summer. These southerly winds in turn create regular sea mists and overcast conditions, moderating the temperatures in the valley. The annual rainfall is 850mm, with 50% falling in the winter months (May – August).
Growing season and Harvesting
A most challenging vintage season, bordering on multiple personality disorder. The grape yields were on average 30% down, due to the interrupted winter and winds during flowering. A period of warm temperatures during mid-July interrupted the winter dormancy and led to uneven budding of the vines later in early September with a reduced crop. The spring was the coolest of the last 5 drought years and relatively dry. Gale force winds during the flowering time in November led to a further decrease in crop. Bunches had less berries on them, and they were smaller due to the cool weather and slow vegetative growth. The ripening summer period was the coolest of the last 10 years, leading to harvest dates that were comparable to what we were used to before the drought and elevated natural acidity in the fruit. Intermittent rain during the harvest made it difficult to protect the harvest from rot and our sorting table was as busy as ever. Multiple pickings from each of these Pinot Noir vineyards were necessary to ensure ideal ripeness in the tannin structure.
The grapes are packed in to large-surface area crates to limit pressure on the bunches. The day’s harvest is cooled down overnight to 8ºC in the winery’s refrigerated cold room. The bunches are sorted on a conveyor, destemmed, and fall directly to the fermenter (with no crushing). No sulphur is used in the winemaking, allowing diverse micro-organisms from the grape itself to flourish unrestrained in the spontaneous fermentation. Some parcels also contain a discretionary percentage of whole bunches together with their stems. Cold maceration ensues for 4 to 6 days at 8 to 10°C. All parcels are fermented with indigenous yeasts, and only pigeage (punching down) applied for extraction. The wine spends approximately 15 – 20 days on the skins before pressing. After pressing the wine is racked and left to complete its malolactic ‘fermentation’ and maturation in barrel on its lees.
Matured for 11 months in barrique (228L) barrels produced in Burgundy and custom made for the various vineyards. Tighter grained oak is preferred for subtle flavour, with longer seasoning and slower, lower temperature toasting. New oak comprises only 5%. The wine is racked to stainless steel tanks for another 6 months of élevage. No fining or filtration, and a sulphur adjustment before bottling.