IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT THE VINEYARDS
Chenin Blanc grapes can be used to produce many different wine styles because they readily take on different characteristics depending on where they are grown; how they are aged, and how they are used.
The varietal has always been seen as the “workhorse” of the South African wine industry, contributing acidity to bigger bulk blends. Because of this past, we are now fortunate to have older and well-established bush vines that produce naturally low yields and thus have a huge influence on grape quality.
The Seriously Cool Chenin Blanc is produced from different bush vine blocks in the Helderberg as well as the Stellenbosch region some ageing between 30-40-year-old. The Helderberg vineyards are close to the ocean, which ensure a long growing season and allow for ripe fruit with good concentration and balanced acidity. The Stellenbosch block still gets a nice cool breeze through the vineyards but does experience slightly warmer conditions which contribute to the beautiful richness in the wine. The Helderberg soils are of sandstone origin with medium-sized stones, which help with drainage and good moisture retention, whilst the Stellenbosch component is rooted in sandy soils. Both blocks have a low production of approximately 4 t/ha.
A GENTLE HAND
The winemaking philosophy for all our premium white wines from Waterkloof is the same. We follow a traditional, minimalistic approach which means that we interfere as little as possible with the winemaking process. It allows the flavours prevalent in that specific vineyard to ultimately express themselves in the wine. To achieve this goal, all grapes are whole-bunch pressed in our modern basket press, to extract the juice in the gentlest way. The juice is then allowed to settle for 12 hours after which it is racked from the settling tank into concrete eggs and also older 600 liter barrels.
We do not inoculate the juice with commercially cultivated yeast, but allow the wild yeast prevailing in the vineyard to ferment the juice. We also do not add acid or any enzymes during the process. The natural fermentation process took approximately 6 months to complete after which we left the wine in the barrels and eggs to develop further complexity. Only a light filtration was used prior to bottling.
AND A FEW PRAYERS TO MOTHER NATURE – THE 2021/22 GROWING SEASON
A cool season with moderate weather conditions during the 2022 harvest. This gave the vine the opportunity to reach full phenolic ripeness and develop complex flavours.
The current harvest quality is dependent on the previous Winter conditions. The 2021 Winter started early and saw proper leaf fall during the month of May. The rest of the Winter was ideal and cold but we still did not have enough rain on the farm.
On the Waterkloof farm we decide to focus on a minimum tilling approach to try and build up the natural carbon percentage in the soil. Christiaan, our farm manager, started putting chipped plant cuttings down in between the vines going 30 to 40 cm high. Over this he would spray earth worm teas which will break the plant material down into a carbon source.
The legume and wild oats cover crop will only be rolled flat- only cleaning in between the vines with the aim of preserving the carbon in the soil and increasing the water holding capacity.
Due to a cold Spring budding was delayed by 2 weeks on average. Once flowering started the vine caught up and was only about 5 days later than the average year.
Luckily during flowering, we did not see strong winds and had an even berry set in the area. From December on the vine’s growth was accelerated by the warmer growing conditions. We had a few heat peaks in December and in January.
As far as I remember this was one of the longest harvests! We started getting into full swing from around the second week of February and received our last grapes in on the 23rd of March. The quality looks good- we saw little rot and reached proper phenolic ripeness at lower sugar levels leading to fresher wines with slightly lower alcohols.
A TASTING NOTE FROM THE GLASS OF NADIA LANGENEGGER
This Chenin Blanc flaunts pronounced aromas of stone fruits such as pear and dried apricots. I also enjoy subtle notes of raisins, honey and fynbos on the nose. The wine has a full and rich mouthfeel because of the longer alcoholic fermentation that keeps the fine lees in suspension. With the combination of concrete eggs and barrels, it gives us a wine that has great structure but also a lovely freshness to it.
THE NUMBERS (11 400 bottles produced)
Alc: 14 %
RS: 3.07 g/l
TA: 4.8 g/l