Its been almost a year since I last posted.
Now we have finished our 2021 harvest (it went very well) and we are looking to getting new vineyards in the ground in 2021 and planning those for 2022 and beyond. The vineyards we are establishing this year was planned years ago, and we finally get to plant them!
I have 4 major new vineyard developments this year. One extreme and very exciting, another unique and exciting, another totally a new frontier and another one that doesn’t stress me out so much!
I will discuss them all in the coming posts. Lets start with the extreme one.
Back in February 2019 I was contacted by a client about a piece of land he would like to buy. The question was – is this going to be one of the best sites in Stellenbosch for wine production?
After I did the terroir studies – the answer was yes and no. No not the whole property, but Yes, a 1.2 hectare hill, covering 180°, having slopes of up to 32° and with the lowest Solar Irradiation I have planted in South Africa. So I knew this was unique, special and extreme, but I needed to relate this into wine for him. So came a very long and difficult study of Côte Rôtie – the Holy Grail of Syrah (not to be confused by the Barossa wine), and precisely what I wanted to plant.
So my aim with the study was simple. Find out the above ground terroir parameters of Côte Rôtie and of our property in Stellenbosch, and measure up the differences and the similarities. First of all, you have to throw away all preconceived thoughts about any viticulture aspect, because I live and work in the Southern Hemisphere, and Côte Rôtie is in the Northern Hemisphere. But, if you can start to grasp the concept of terroir studies and wine, you can learn a pretty good deal out of these studies.
If you didn’t know, Côte Rôtie is located just south of Vienne in the communes of Saint-Cyr-sur-le-Rhône, Ampuis, and Tupin-et-Semons and the name means “Roasted slopes”. This is in no means like we would think in South Africa, where “roasted slopes” would mean 50°C and more!! The choice of these slopes were based on more than just temperature. The older generations spent more time out in the fields and observed a lot better and more than we do today. The “roasted slopes” actually refers to the energy that the slopes receives.
If you look at the parameters for radiation in the Rhône, the upper spectrum lies between 3600 Wh/m² and 3900 Wh/m² per day for mid harvest. In South African context, our upper spectrum is > 5300 Wh/m², and our “lower radiation” is around 4800 Wh/m². So, knowing this, I can try and see how close we can get. I know we aren’t in France, and I also know there are so many other factors, but hey, we are giving it a calculated scientific-viticultural shot!
Apologies for the watermark – my work gets stolen frequently, and for some reason my company logo too!
So, I know the irradiation, and the rest I know too (elevation, aspect, slope etc). So how do we measure up on this site?
Well, remarkably well, especially in our context of South Africa.
At this site in Stellenbosch, we have more than 50% of the site below 4500Wh/m²! So, you might say, ok, but what does this mean? Well, in terms of Syrah in South Africa, you need one of 3 things to start getting spice/pepper notes in your wine – Elevation (>680m), Proximity to the ocean (<10-15 km) or low radiation (<4900Wh/m2).
So this means that we knew we had a great takeoff point to create an excellent Syrah, but more planning was needed…