Working with nature allows us to experience its natural cycle each year. Vines awaken from their rest in spring to grow and produce fruit until the next winter when they go back to sleep, only to be reborn again. Our Circle of Life collection is inspired by this ongoing cycle that exists not only through the biodynamic and organic farming practices implemented at Waterkloof, but also in life in general. At Waterkloof, we strive to produce the finest grapes by adhering to traditional organic and biodynamic methods. Our methods are based on Old World, sustainable practices in our vineyards to ensure that the vines are nourished, healthy and in balance. Our soils are free of chemicals and are kept healthy by using plant extracts, fungi and bacteria from our own organic compost. We do not spray any chemicals in our vineyards. Our focus is to find natural alternatives and to produce our own compost to ensure soil that is full of life, rich in oxygen and brimming with different insects. We want to be able to smell the soil.
Our Circle of Life Red is not a wine that is driven by a particular varietal or a specific parcel of a vineyard, nor constrained by a traditional blending style, for example, a Bordeaux or Rhône blend, but rather an elegant expression of the philosophy and totality of Waterkloof, as well as the vintage.
We harvest according to taste and find it essential to spend a lot of time in the vineyards to see how the flavours develop. All grapes were hand-picked and brought to the cellar by our horses. To ensure that only the best berries are used, we sorted all grapes by hand. It was then placed into our wooden fermenters via our gravity system. The Rhône varietals were whole-bunch fermented and the Bordeaux varietals were destemmed. The fermentation started naturally with yeast present on the grapes to enhance the flavours prevailing in the vineyards.
Throughout the fermentation process, we did soft punch downs twice a day to gently and slowly extract the tannins. The wines spent around 30 days on the skins during which the tannins were able to soften.
After the maceration time on the skins, we ran the wine down via gravity – still no pumping. The grape skins also fell through, into the basket press and were softly pressed to gently extract the last bit of wine, aroma and colour from the skins.
The varietals were aged separately in French oak. 600L Barrels for the Rhône varietals and 225L barrels for the Bordeaux varietals. Only 20% were new barrels to avoid dominance of wood aromatics in our wines.
After 18 months in barrel, we blended the Syrah (73%), Merlot (16%), and Petit Verdot (11%) together and kept it for another year in our wooden fermenters. This wine is unfined and gently filtered.
The Stellenbosch area experienced a good winter with sufficient rain to fill the dams and enough cold units during July to have the vines in full dormancy. From August, the temperatures started to rise slowly and spring arrived early with flowering occurring under ideal conditions. This ensured even ripeness, which contributed to excellent grape quality. We experienced windy conditions during this stage, which led to looser bunches and helped to attain lower yields and more concentration.
Rainfall fell off dramatically from September with warm, dry weather and fewer strong winds. Throughout the growing season, temperatures remained moderate, with intermittent hot days. Veraison started approximately 2 weeks earlier than usual.
For the rest of the growing season, we saw little rain which resulted in very low disease pressure. Even though the days were warm, the evenings cooled down nicely.
The 2015 harvest was the earliest to date at Waterkloof. We started picking two weeks earlier than usual, due to the early spring but hang time was sufficient to allow phenolic ripeness. The quality of the fruit was exceptional: low pH, high acidity and clean fruit with little to no rot.
A perfectly integrated blend with great length that combines the spiciness of the Syrah, the fresh fruits of the Petit Verdot and the juiciness from the Merlot. The introduction is fresh and fruity with good acidity, evolving into riper flavours and herbaceous notes, with elegant tannins and light acids on the finish. It is very versatile and will complement numerous dishes but I like to enjoy it with a hearty lamb shank.