“Wine is bottled poetry.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Considering the dedication, science, passion and artistic expression that goes into the production of wine, with inspiring results, these words are by no means an exaggeration. In celebration of the opening of the wine shop at the Drostdy Hotel– which stocks some of the country’s best wines, including those produced by the Rupert family’s estates – we are sharing insight from Anthonij Rupert Wines on the workmanship of winemaking.
The Intricate Process
At Anthonij Rupert Wines, the grapes are handpicked in the cool hours of the morning to ensure an optimum flavour concentration and natural acidity. The grapes are then packed in 15 kilogram lug boxes – which minimise bruising – and transported via refrigerated trucks to facilities for overnight cooling, at 10 degrees Celsius. This retains their flavour and freshness.
The grapes are then destemmed and hand sorted to remove any leaves. Beyond this, they are hand sorted again on a vibrating table, ensuring that only grapes without any stalks or green matter are selected. These grapes are then placed in a holding tank and transferred to either a stainless steel tank or an oak fermenter for fermentation to commence.
The best grapes are specially destemmed and transferred into 225 litre barrels to undergo oak fermentation. Regular punch downs are performed to ensure good colour and soft tannin extraction. During fermentation, the fermenting juice is drained into a satellite tank which is hoisted up so the fermenting juice can be discharged over the cap without any mechanical pumping. This leads to soft and silky tannin extraction in the wine.
The press wineis separated from the free run wine, and malolactic fermentation occurs naturally in barrels in a temperature controlled room. Barrel ageing continues for up to two years. The wine is bottled and released when the time is right.
Harvest time usually commences in January or February at Anthonij Rupert Wines and continues well into February or March, depending on weather conditions. The 2017 harvest was recorded as one of the driest seasons ever in South Africa – the result of a major drought throughout the Western Cape. The region experienced continuous strong south-easterly winds during the harvest which fortunately led to very cool evenings during December 2016, slowing down the ripening of the grapes. January and February 2017 also had many cool evenings and there were no major heat waves experienced during this time.
2017 and 2018 Vintages
Due to the extreme weather conditions, last year’s crop was characterised by very small bunches and small berries. The resulting wines, however, are very unique and powerfully concentrated, reflecting fantastic acidity with very low pH levels. The lower night temperatures contributed to the exceptional colour and flavours which are evident in the red wines. All things considered, the 2017 vintage turned out to be among the best vintages experienced by Anthonij Rupert Wines. The team now waits in anticipation for the evolution of these wines as they age.
Looking ahead, the winemaking team has commented that – although the vineyards have been struggling and bunches are generally smaller due to a lack of water – the overall quality of the grapes seem to be good this year. VinPro estimates that 2018 will see the smallest harvests in more than a decade in South Africa, but it is not all bad news: Smaller crops often mean more intense colour and concentrated flavours in the berries. Dry, windy conditions also reduce the need for spraying and disease control. There is a silver lining.
The flagship Anthonij Rupert range is best enjoyed served from a decanter and matched with an array of lovely meaty dishes and flavourful cheeses. The wines are complex and elegant, created with cellaring and ageing potential in mind: Anywhere in the region of 20 to 30 years is optimal, but these wines will age well beyond the 30 year mark.
Handcrafted red wines should always be stored in a temperature controlled room with good ventilation, little vibration and excellent humidity to prevent the corks from drying out.
Visit the Drostdy Hotel’s Wijnkamer and cellar to sample these delectable wines~.
Poetry – indeed!
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