Renowned biodynamic winery Waterkloof has released the latest vintage of its eagerly-awaited Circle of Life White blend. Showcasing both the gentle hand applied in the winery and a life-affirming approach in the vineyards, the 2016 Circle of Life White is again a proud standard bearer for wines that eco-friendly farming can deliver.
The wine is only released in selected years, when integration of its components shines brightest.
Circle of Life was conceived as the story of Waterkloof – once conventionally farmed, Waterkloof’s great potential was spotted by Paul Boutinot who initiated its transformation into a living, breathing organic and biodynamic vineyard.
The duo Circle of Life White and Red that make up the portfolio reflect this multi-faceted provenance, where every aspect of its location – high among fynbos covered hills of the Schapenberg overlooking False Bay – is honed to a perfect note in the symphony of the wine.
“The Circle of Life White 2016 is intriguing,” Waterkloof winemaker Nadia Barnard-Langenegger writes in her assessment. “Its Sauvignon Blanc character is prominent on the nose, with beautiful aromatics of lime and gooseberry. On the palate, the wine shows a lovely, fresh acidity and thorough integration. The Chenin Blanc reveals itself in a tight mineral core and creamy mid-palate – the backdrop for great complexity and a persistent finish.”
The blend comprises 67% Sauvignon Blanc, 29% Chenin Blanc and 4% Semillon.
Reflecting on the growing season that produced the wine, Nadia says the winter of 2015 had been mild and very dry. Spring brought ample sunlight and warm temperatures. Under these conditions, the biodynamic vines truly came into their own. Their deep root systems, some up to six metres into the earth, kept the plants vibrant.
“When harvest came, the berries were small, but the flavours were fantastic,” she says.
Waterkloof relies mainly on taste to assess the moment the grapes are at their best for harvest. Picking is done in the cool of early morning, with strict fruit selection both in the vineyard and in the cellar.
This vintage was the first the Waterkloof team made use of a new Coquard Press. Its gentle press cycle makes it renowned as the best way of extracting juice to ensure purity – an essential component in Waterkloof winemaking philosophy.
During vinification of the Circle of Life White, a combination of old 600 litre barrels and concrete “eggs” were utilised. The wine is made by natural, co-fermentation of the two principal grape varieties in the blend – sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc.
“Ultimately, this allowed for a better integrated and more complete wine,” says Nadia. Keeping with the aim of producing wine as naturally as possible, no additions such as acid or enzymes were allowed.
“We prefer extended barrel and bottle maturation prior to release. There are many ways of achieving balance and a long mouthfeel in wine, among them by using additives. We prefer the more natural approach of leaving the wine longer on the lees and allowing the wine to rest in bottle, because it often takes longer for blends to realise that perfect integration.”
The 2016 Circle of Life White blend makes a fine addition to the Waterkloof portfolio. It also contributes to the winery’s own insight into the ever-evolving terroir.
“Our focus has always been to get a better understanding of Waterkloof and the individual characters of its vineyard blocks,” says Nadia. “The Circumstance range allows these individual blocks and varieties to be expressed. Conversely, our objective with Circle of Life has been to produce two blends that encapsulate all the varying terroir characteristics and grape varietals found on Waterkloof. Thus, rather than being constrained by a traditional blending style, for example a Bordeaux or Rhône blend, we have instead produced two wines that are not driven by cultivar, nor a specific parcel of the vineyard. Instead, they are a true reflection of the totality, philosophy and specificity of Waterkloof.”
Waterkloof strives to produce balanced, characterful wines by adhering to traditional organic and biodynamic methods. Chickens, sheep and workhorses all play their own unique role in the vineyards. Its soils are free of chemicals and are kept healthy by using plant extracts, fungi and bacteria from the farm’s own organic compost.