The lower slopes of the Newton Johnson farm are undeniably suited to Rhône/Mediterranean grape varieties. Alluvial deposits of large stone fragments up to two metres deep require robust vines to search for nutrients and water. ‘FULL STOP ROCK’ is how we define this jagged landscape. Unlike Pinot noir that is sapped of its plump fruit and vitality, robust vines like Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, thrive in this type of soil. When we pion eered the Syrah grape in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley little was known of the potential styles of Syrah -based blends from the cooler South African wine areas. We were encouraged to discover clear-cut, invigorating wines with compact black fruit, spice, perfume, and sophisticated tannins.
Gregarious and untameable. Bright, flashy red fruits and sweet floral fragrance highlights the layers of luscious cassis, mulberry and savoury liquorice. Warm spice and white pepper imparts restraint over the sweet fruit. The polished texture of sleek tannins, plump fruit and liquorice saturate the palate, with tangy red berries furnishing freshness and length.
Alcohol by volume: 13.89 %; Total Acidity: 5.4 g/l; pH: 3.47; Residual sugar: 1.4 g/l
The main vineyard contingent to this wine lies mostly on the lowest slopes and bottom plateau, at altitudes of 225 to 245m, in the porphyritic Granite soils of the Upper Hemel-enAarde 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).
APPELLATION: Wine of Origin UPPER HEMEL-EN-AARDE VALLEY
BLENDED VARIETIES: 78% Syrah, 18% Grenache, 4% Mourvèdre
SOIL: Stone fragments and decomposed granite on iron-rich clay
ASPECT: North and North-West facing. Slopes of 10-12%.
TRELISSING: 7-wire Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP) with movable wires, Echalas (one stake per vine), and bush vine (Goblet).
AGE OF VINES: 11-15 years
PRUNING: Cordon, Echalas & Goblet
VINES PER Ha: 3300 – 5100
AVERAGE YIELD: 5.1 – 7.5 tons/Ha (33 – 48 hl/Ha)
This is the 5th straight vintage that was warmer and earlier than the average. The preceding winter had decent rain, though was quite poor in terms of accumulated cold temperatures. Fortunately, there were no major abnormalities with budding in the last week of August, a week later than ’15 and ’16. A sustained, dry and warm summer kept the vine canopies relatively modest in growth vigour, and the crop was lower than average. A significant event was the 50mm of rain received on the 27t h January as the first parcels of Pinot Noir were being harvested. This resulted in a delay in ripening for everything else on the vine, with moderate temperatures allowing grape flavours to develop without sugar accumulation.
The grapes are hand-picked and packed in to large-surface area crates to limit pressure on 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. All parcels are fermented with a discretionary percentage of whole bunches together with their stems. Cold maceration ensues for 5 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 25 days on the skins before pressing. After pressing the wine is racked and left to complete its malolactic ‘fermentation’ and maturation in oak barrels. Maturation Matured for 12 months in 228L and 500L 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 8%. No fining and filtration before bottling.
BEST DRINKING: Now – 10 years