Our African dream...
When you start to follow a dream, your life awakens and everything falls into place...
An Alsace winemaker, I fell in love with South Africa while working the 2003 harvest in Hermanus. Returning the following year I cemented my friendship with Gordon Newton Johnson owner of the Newton Johnson vineyards in the Hemel-en Aarde Valley. After a late night, and a few of the obligatory brandies, I was able to persuade him to help me start a new venture. Taking what little money I had saved I invested everything in grapes and barrels and made some wine...
My first vintage in 2005 consisted of just a few barrels of Chardonnay and Syrah.
In 2013 Sophie joined me in the adventure; a graduate of the winemaking school in Burgundy she has embraced the project wholeheartedly and we now spend our time shuttling between seasons, making Riesling Grand Cru together in Alsace in October and our cool-climate South African Chardonnay in February !
South Africa - cool-climates...
Since my first visit in 2003 I have been struck by the huge potential of Chardonnay in South Africa, particularly when grown in the cool-climate areas of Overberg, Walker Bay, Elgin and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. And I'm fascinated by the distinct typicity, that goes beyond the simple differences in soil type, due to the subtle climate variations between these regions. My aim has been to work with grapes from each these cool vineyard areas, to find blocks that represent the characteristics of each zone, and to develop and express their distinct styles in my wines.
Elgin is the Cape's coolest viticultural area and has a unique climate and topography consisting of an upland basin plateau surrounded by mountains on all sides. Similar to, but slightly cooler than, Walker Bay.
In the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley the soil is predominantly Malmesbury Shale. A duplex structure with a surface layer consisting of a mixture of clay ( 15-30%) and gravel ( ironstone and granite particles), and a lower layer of moisture-holding clay shale. The valley is sheltered by the surrounding mountains; Galpin Peak at 810 metres and the1200 metre Tower of Babel which trap the cloud cover and moisture brought in on the cooling sea-breezes. The result is a long, slow growing-season yielding fully-ripe, flavour-rich grapes.
The climate of Walker Bay is heavily influenced by the nearby and rather cold Atlantic Ocean, making this one of coolest vine-growing areas in the Cape. Summer conditions can be described as warm rather than hot, with mild and frost-free winters.
Winemaking : Let's keep it simple...
Hand-picking: The grapes are picked by hand at the coolest time of the day, then stored overnight in a cooling room.
Whole-bunch pressing: To obtain the best possible juice we are very careful to protect the fruit at every stage.
Natural settling: Following a long and soft pressing the juice is transferred to tank for gentle static settling.
Long aging: The slow, cool, barrel-fermentations can last up to three months, followed by a minimum of ten months in barrel.
Gentle bottling: No fining, no heavy filtration, the wines are bottled in our cellars on a low-speed line.
All these details help us reflect and preserve the "sense of place" we are looking to reflect in these wines.
A passion for Chardonnay
White Burgundy has always been one of our favorite wine styles, Sophie is Burgundian and has grown up with Chardonnay, i spent the last years of my winemaking studies in Beaune and have worked in Puligny Montrachet; experiences which formed and confirmed my passion for these wines.
Since 2003, I have been absolutely amazed by the potential of Chardonnay in South Africa. Particularly the Chardonnays grown in cool-climate areas such as Overberg, Walker bay, Elgin or Hemel-en-Aarde valley.