Traditionally we wait until the end of harvest before communicating through the year’s first newsletter, the delay being been caused by a long and taxing harvest season stretching from the end of January to the latter part of April. More about the harvest later, but this year’s varying weather once again reinforced the extent to which uniWines Vineyards – and all other wineries – are dependent on nature. Naturally we embrace this, as despite the challenges and unpredictability, it is the influence of nature that makes our industry and its product unique.
There are a number of reasons to feel positive about the South African wine industry, and right at the top is the recognition for the general quality of our wines at all price points. Various international commentators recently spoke at a seminar hosted by industry body VinPro and were unanimous in emphasizing the technical prowess of South African wineries, the advanced methods of vineyard management and the scientific approach to ensuring a product of quality in all aspects.
The offering of a diverse spectrum of wines at a level of consistent quality is imperative to the success of any country’s wine industry and lies at the core of uniWines Vineyards business ethos. The other vital cog is relationships with customers and potential customers. No matter how good your wine and how competitive the price, business success is determined by good and sustainable relationships. On this we will never renege. Recent visits to Europe and America, including Prowein reinforced that South Africa – and uniWines Vineyards, I am glad to say – are also getting this part of the business right.
Now that all the grapes are eventually in the winery, this year’s real work can begin.
A late ripening period with a bit of flooding thrown in for good measure led to a latish start to this year’s harvest which saw grapes still being picked at the end of April. A long and cold – not to mention wet – winter put the vines into a deep state of winter dormancy and spring was not eager to arrive, with the Breedekloof mountains still seeing snow in September.
When the summer set in, conditions were excellent with grapes ripening evenly with grapes showing balanced acidity and pH levels.
Planning for each tank of wine begins with the farmer in his vineyard during pruning season. From then the uniWines Vineyards team and the farmer work together to ensure the winemaker gets the fruit in the condition and to the rigorous quality standards we expect.
This team-approach, from vineyard management to winemaking and the vast amount of logistics is essential to not only producing quality wines, but also ensuring the product is competently managed in the supply-chain to ensure a top product.
uniWines Vineyards New Viticulturist: Nicholas Bruyns
From a viticulture viewpoint, this year’s harvest was overseen by Nicholas Bruyns, the new Viticulturalist at uniWines Vineyards. He says the teamwork between farmers and uniWines Vineyards and the quality of the viticulture practises among farmers in the region were stand-out features of this year’s harvest.
Nicholas hails from Durbanville in the Cape and his interest in grape farming was piqued by a neighbour of the family home who was a consultant viticulturalist. “I would visit the wine farms with him during school holidays, and loved everything about wine farming,” he says. “When it came to deciding on a career it was a no-brainer especially as I was never destined for an office job. The outdoors, nature and plants … that is where I want to be.”
During his studies at the renowned Elsenburg Agricultural College Nicholas did extensive practical work in the Durbanville Wine Valley and upon graduating spent time at the L’Ormarins farm in Franschhoek which also has vineyards in Darling, the Riebeek Valley and Villiersdorp. Before coming to uniWines Vineyards he worked in the Olifants River region.
“It is terrific working with such experienced farmers as the ones growing the grapes for uniWines Vineyards,” he says. “Being in the vineyards with a 3rd, 4th and even 5th generation farmer is so enriching as they know every inch of their vineyards and its soils to a tee and are constantly aware of what has to be done to present our wineries with fruit of the desired quality.”
He is really impressed with the quality of the Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in the region. Cold wet winters and dry summers together with excellent soils and an abundance of irrigation water have created a region whose potential as one of the country’s great wine areas is now truly coming to the fore.
Nicholas says the end-result of the vineyard is the most satisfying aspect of his work. “To spend a whole year with a vineyard, from the bare stumps of winter through to the ripening grapes and then to taste the wine is just a great experience,” he says. “It is also a real privilege to be able to work with and to help so many people during the course of my work. Whether it is giving a farm-worker and her child a lift to town or to help a producer improve his profitability, this is all very rewarding.”
New Wine Takes International Gold Medal
A few months after the launch of its maiden vintage, an unconventional white blend wine from uniWines Vineyards in Rawsonville was awarded a Gold Medal at the 14th Mundus Vini Great International Wine Awards held in Neustadt in Germany. The Exanimo 2013, made at uniWines Vineyards’ Daschbosch cellar, is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon fermented and aged in the barrel, and is uniWines Vineyards’ first foray into the exciting category of South African white blends.
uniWines Group Cellarmaster Nicolaas Rust says the blend was conceptualised in the minds of the winemakers but compiled in the vineyards.
“Only when we got into the various vineyards of each cultivar did a final picture of the blend make-up begin to emerge,” says Rust. “We selected fruit from each cultivar’s best blocks, all the grapes originating from the farms of our member-shareholders. Each component – Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Semillon – was vinified separately with the final blend made-up after thorough tasting and selection by the winemaking team. The final product is a white wine fermented and aged in new French oak and represents a new chapter in uniWines Vineyards’ winemaking in terms of being a pioneering white blend as well as a wine of the kind of class and complexity that gives a winemaker goose-bumps just knowing it came out of your cellar.”