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Today was fantastic. I did what I love to do – visit exceptional vineyards.

Tremayne Smith of The Blacksmith Wines accompanied me today. First we visited the Cinsaut block destined for The Blacksmith Barebones. We are both very happy with the way this block is handled and it definitely speaks through the wine.

Tremayne Smith with wine grape producer Nicolaas Geldenhuys

Tremayne Smith with wine grape producer Nicolaas Geldenhuys

Our next stop was Darling, in the West Coast. Always good to visit this spectacular region, one of the most underrated regions in South Africa  and definitely needs to get way more attention.

Speaking of attention…

I have my viticulture roots in Darling. This is were I started. I know these vines by name. I have a connection with these old vines. But these old vines are under attack. Not just in Darling, but across South Africa. It just doesn’t make sense for most farmers to continue with these vineyards – the price they receive for their grapes are just not enough to make it viable at 3-5tonnes per hectare. And they can’t keep these vines in the ground just because they are old – the result is uprooting of old vines at a pace you won’t believe. Like one farmer told me once – “You can’t bank sentiment”.

Well, you can’t plant heritage either, and these old vines are our heritage. How can we turn this situation around? How can we save these giants? How can we educate the market to realize the value of old vines, and wines made from old vines?

This post is not to answer any of these questions. It is merely to make you think. When I spoke to a farmer today and heard his plans to uproot almost 30 hectares of old Chenin blanc and Cinsaut (planted between 1968-1979) within the next 4 years, I felt hopeless. I see vast fields planted with wheat and I remember 6 years ago there were Pinotage, planted in 1974. Over there use to be Cinsaut, planted between 1954-1962. And over there use to be Grenache noir, planted in 1971. Lost. All lost. I remember the concentration of the fruit of these old vines, the finesse, the structure, the quality…

Winemakers of South Africa – WAKE UP! Find these gems, use them to express the true nature of South African terroir and heritage in your wines, nurse these vines, love them – for if you don’t, you would have missed the chance of a lifetime and never to be able to get THAT block ever again…

Chenin blanc - 1976

Chenin blanc – 1976

Cinsaut - 1979

Cinsaut – 1979

Still "young" Tinta Barroca - 27 years old - next in line to be ripped out

Still “young” Tinta Barroca – 27 years old – next in line to be ripped out

Cinsaut - 1982 - might not be here in 2018...

Cinsaut – 1982 – might not be here in 2018…

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