It’s Really All About the Vineyards

Circle of Life tells the story of Waterkloof: A once conventionally farmed vineyard with great potential, that – since Paul Boutinot took over the property – has been transformed into a living, breathing organic and regenerative vineyard by Farm Manager Christiaan Loots and his team.

On Waterkloof we farm organic and biological, producing our own compost and microbial preparations. We then distribute these by utilising our draught horses, as opposed to heavy tractors. These practices ensure loose soil with more life, where the vines can spread their roots as they please; taking up everything they need from our rich and complex earth. We believe that regenerative farming helps to produce honest, terroir-driven wines that are truly made in the vineyard

Our focus has always been to get a better understanding of Waterkloof and the individual characters of its vineyard blocks. The Circumstance range allows these individual blocks and varietals 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 varietal, nor a specific parcel of the vineyard. Instead, they are a true reflection of the totality, philosophy and specificity of Waterkloof.

A Gentle Hand

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 into small picking crates, sorted in the vineyards and brought to the cellar by our horses. To ensure that only the best berries are used, we sorted all grapes by hand in the winery as well. These were then placed into our wooden fermenters via our gravity system. The Rhône varietals were whole-bunch fermented and the Bordeaux varietals were de-stemmed. The fermentation started naturally with yeast present on the grapes to enhance the flavours prevailing in the vineyards. We also don’t add any sulphur at this point. Just pure grapes in our wooden fermenters.

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 time the tannins were able to soften. This duration is dependent on taste.

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 varietal and 225L barrels for the Bordeaux varietals. Only 10 % were new barrels, to avoid dominance of wood aromatics in our wines.

After 12 months in barrel, we blended the Cabernet Franc (38%), Merlot (28%), Syrah (18%) and Petit Verdot (16%) together and kept it for another 5 months in our wooden fermenters. This wine is unfined and gently filtered.

And A Few Prayers to Mother Nature: The 2019/2020 Growing Season

For the past 4 years, the Western Cape has been experiencing a severe drought. During winter of 2019, we did welcome more rain than in the previous two years and were very blessed to receive over 500mm.

Budburst and flowering were earlier than usual, starting with the first buds at the beginning of September. Towards the end of the flowering season there was some rain, but fruit set was luckily still even.

The remainder of the growing season was ideal, with enough sunlight and not too much rain – which could lead to mildew. At the end of January, the south easterly wind did howl through the property, which led to a lot of leaf loss and even that of some grape bunches. Not much could be done to mitigate this, except to spend more time in the vineyards and divide the blocks into different sectors in preparation for harvest. We first removed fruit in risk of sunburn and monitored each block very closely.

Our 2020 harvest commenced on the 29th of January and reached full intensity from the 5th of February. The harvest conditions were positive with enough sun, not too much rain and only a few very hot days. The whites came in over a period of about 2 weeks, with the reds following immediately after – this made harvest logistics a little easier. All harvest dates were determined by taste in the vineyard, waiting to achieve the ideal balance between phenolic ripeness, potential alcohol and acid. In terms of yield, there was some variation but overall, we saw an increase of approximately 10% on 2019.

A Tasting Note from the Glass of Nadia Langenegger

A blend is often intriguing as it keeps you swirling your glass and enjoying the variety of different flavors the wine can give you. On our 2020 the Merlot comes through initially on the nose with notes of plums and red berries. As it stays in the glass for longer the herbaceous notes from the Cabernet Franc comes through which I perceive as thyme and sage. The Petit Verdot and Syrah adds to the elegance and complexity of the wine and integrates well with the other varietals. We work very gently with our wines – We work very gently with our wines – with the aim to have tannins that are well rounded and carries nicely. Red wines are best enjoyed with a meal and I believe that it is a fantastic pairing for a rack of lamb seasoned with a variety of herbs.

The Numbers: (32 000 bottles produced)

Alc: 14.2 %

RS: 2.5

TA:  4.9 g/l

pH: 3.65

VA: 0.7