• Geert De Baere

Saronsberg


Het Domein

Domein Saronsberg is 550ha groot, waarvan 50ha wijngaarden en ligt in de regio Tulbagh, 120 km van Kaapstad. 70% van de productie is rode wijn, 30% witte. Drie bergen omringen het domein: De Witzenberg Mountains, de Obiqua Range en de Groot Winterhoek Range. Saronsberg ontleende zijn naam aan de Saronsberg mountain, die deel uitmaakt van de Obiqua mountain range. De Kleinberg rivier vormt de westelijke grens van het estate. De temperatuur op Saronsberg is gemiddeld 3 tot 4° minder dan in de vallei (de Upper Breede Rivier Vallei, 80km van de Atlantische oceaan). De druiven krijgen ook minder zonlicht. Daardoor zijn de wijnen van Saronsberg elegant met een geconcentreerde kleur en een stevige structuur. De boerderij werd grotendeels verwoest door brand in 2002 maar werd volledig en prachtig heropgebouwd. Er is ook heel veel aandacht voor design en kunst. U kan er ook zéér comfortabel overnachten...

Accreditations: BEE : Black Economic Empowerment Biodiversity & Wine Initiative Certificate WIETA – Agricultural Ethical Trade Initiative (SA) IPW Certificate - Intergrated Production of Wine

Wijnmaker : Dewaldt Heyns

Wijnmaker Dewaldt Heyns: In 1995 Dewaldt completed his Diploma in Cellar Technology at Elsenburg Agricultural College, where he had already discovered the affinity for Shiraz that would later make him very popular at parties – or so he claims. He was appointed viticulturist/assistant winemaker at Rust en Vrede, before moving to the newly established Avondale as winemaker in 1999. It was here that Dewaldt’s wines first starting earning accolades, a trend that blossomed after he moved to Saronsberg as winemaker end 2003. For more than 13 years Dewaldt has been refining the wine style and quality of this unique Tulbagh farm, earning widespread recognition from maiden vintage to date. In recognition of this consistently high quality of production, Dewaldt was invited to join the Cape Winemakers’ Guild in 2009.

History

Despite the modern nature of our facilities and our progressive approach to winemaking, Saronsberg is an inextricable part of the deep history of the Tulbagh valley. The valley is flanked on all sides by mountains in the Upper Breede River Valley and is unique in its topography and natural beauty. During the night of 29 September 1969 most of the picturesque little town and surrounding area was partly destroyed by the most destructive earthquake in South African history. The occasional tremour can still be felt underfoot throughout the valley and it is in this distinctive terroir with its underestimated potential that Saronsberg has proven the region’s capacity for producing outstanding wines. Saronsberg originally formed part of the iconic and historical Twee Jonge Gezellen and consists of two parts formerly known as Waveren and Welgegund (also referred to by locals as ‘Die Erf’), the latter lying on the western slope of Saronsberg, the mountain after which the farm was named, and which spectacularly dominates the view from the cellar. Parts of the farm are distinctly different in terroir, with broad disparateness in altitude, aspect, soil type and temperature, producing grapes with contrasting characteristics.In February 2002 a huge part of the farm was destroyed by a devastating fire and this led to the establishing of new vineyards under the watchful eye of newly appointed winemaker Dewaldt Heyns.

Saronsberg’s winemaking officially began on 25 January 2004 with the pressing of our first Sauvignon Blanc grapes. We are currently establishing fruit and olive orchards on the more fertile soils, and in 2009 the first vintage of Saronsberg olive oil was pressed.

Viticulture

Location The Tulbagh Valley is situated in the Western Cape Province 120km north-east of Cape Town, shaped like an inverted horse-shoe and surrounded by mountains on three sides. The Witzenberg Mountains lie on the east and on the west lies the Obiqua Range with the Groot Winterhoek Range capping the Northern side of the Valley. The Saronsberg mountain forms part of the Obiqua mountain range.

Climate The valley is situated 80km off the Atlantic coast with a continental climate of Mediterranean summers and cold, wet winters. The only access into the valley is from the south and this allows the prevailing south-eastern summer wind to generate airflow and cool down the valley. Cooler air generated by cold air flowing down the surrounding mountains at night also accumulates on the valley floor, effectively trapping the cold air.

Soil Our soils can be broadly classified into three categories depending on their location: – Red and yellow clay loam soils with some fine gravel on the slopes of the Saronsberg Mountain. – Deposited boulder beds and sandy-loam alluvial soils surrounding the Klein Berg River. – Mid-valley shales towards the centre of the Tulbagh Valley.

Terroir Apart from smaller mountain streams and springs the main water supply of the valley is the modest Klein Berg River that runs through Saronsberg estate. Terroir in the valley varies depending on elevation, aspect and slope variations of the mountains and valley floor. Saronsberg has a unique diversity of terroir as the farm consists of two distinct parts (originally named Waveren and Welgegund) that stretch from the centre of the valley right up into the Saronsberg Mountain. The furthest points on the farm suited to viticulture are four kilometers apart and are situated in two different micro-climates, and replanting of vineyards were carried out to take full advantage of these variations, culminating in unique terroir-driven wines. Welgegund, the portion of the farm lying on Saronsberg Mountain is 160 hectares in size, of which only 60 hectares can be cultivated. It has weathered red and yellow clay loam soils with a high percentage of fine gravel and some stone with underlying shale phyllites. These soils have developed from pre-Cambrian age Malmesbury shale.The aspect is steep eastern/south-eastern, varying in height from 200 to 320 meters. Average annual rainfall is 850 to 1200mm per year, mostly from June to September. Due to the close proximity of the mountains we experience an occasional drizzle in summer. In the early to mid-morning there is usually a light southern-westerly wind generated by air movement against the mountain but during the afternoon the wind direction is predominantly from the southern-east. Because of the higher elevation, more air movement and fewer sunlight hours, the average temperature of the vineyards situated against the Saronsberg Mountain is 3 to 4°C cooler than vineyards lower in the valley. The wines produced from these cooler vineyards have more floral notes with greater elegance and form the foundation of our Provenance range and also serve as blending components in the Saronsberg range. The greater portion of the farm lies towards the centre of the valley and most of its 350 hectares can be cultivated. The Klein Berg River forming the farm’s western border is surrounded by deep hydromorphic alluvial and sandy loam duplex soils that run into boulder beds deposited millennia ago when the river was considerably more substantial than today. These soils are fertile and better suited for fruit and olive orchards than vineyards. The bulk of our vineyards are planted in the mid-valley medium deep soils that have developed from Pre-Cambrian age Malmesbury shale. The aspect is moderate east with an average height of 160 to 185m above sea level. The rainfall is 450 to 550mm per year, from June to September. The general wind direction is southern-easterly, providing most of the cooling effect in the afternoons. The wind velocity is generally higher than against the mountain, but of shorter duration. These grapes form the backbone of the Saronsberg range because of the more concentrated colour and flavours with a firm tannin structure. Blending the wines from our very different terroirs results in wines with a broader, more layered flavour profile and greater depth.

Vineyards

Soil Preparation

A comprehensive initial soil and temperature analysis of all potential vineyard sites was done to determine suitability for grape production. The resulting information was used to decide which cultivars, clones and rootstock combinations to plant on specific sites for optimum grape quality. Before planting the soils were prepared by mechanically ripping and shift-ploughing the earth, thus loosening the soil to enable proper root penetration and to assist in the amelioration by adding lime to optimize the soil pH.

Planting The vines are planted with an average 1 to 1.5m between vines and 2.5 to 3m between rows. The corresponding density varies from 2700 to 4000 vines per hectare, mainly because of differences in soil vigour and slope variations. Ninety percent of the vines are trellised (extended Perold), except for some bush vines on the mountain foot slope. The vineyards are planted in approximately one-hectare blocks, separately managed with a yield of three to six tons per hectare (27 to 40 hectoliters). Green harvesting is vigorously applied to balance yield and maximize flavour and extraction. The predominant row orientation is east to west to keep the grapes in the shade (and thus cooler) for longer periods of the day, providing a more uniform fruit quality, greater diversity of flavours and fewer overripe flavours. A small number of vineyards have a north to south row direction to comply with the slopes or to vary the flavour profiles.

Canopy management varies in accordance with each vineyard’s specific requirements. Canopy practices during summer are done by hand and include: suckering, removing the growth points on shoots, removing leaves and lateral shoots and green harvesting. All of this is done by a permanent and dedicated staff force of 35 people.

A variety of cultivars are grown because we focus on blends. Shiraz is the main cultivar comprising fifty percent of all plantings. The rest are Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Nouvelle, Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Muscat de Frontignan. These cultivars were all planted in a variety of clones to provide us with greater flavour and structure diversity in our wines. All the vineyards are also grafted onto rootstocks with Mgt 101-14 being the predominant rootstock. Others include Richter 110 and 90 depending on the soil composition. Most of our vineyards are also ‘mother’ vineyards ensuring that we have the best virus free material available.

Supplemental irrigation is sparsely used since we have adopted a regime of keeping the vines under moderate water stress, thereby concentrating the flavours by inducing smaller berries. This is why we give no water until veraison. Irrigation is used to maintain the potential wine quality and not to increase yields.

Disease control is done preventatively by spraying for powdery and downy mildew. This program is adjusted to each vintage requirement, and due to our drier continental climate we can usually reduce spraying frequency to a minimum. We only use registered products that have the least impact on the environment. This is strictly monitored by the IPW (Integrated Production of Wine) management system unique to South Africa, ensuring that our vineyard management practices comply with strict international requirements. Apart from some small antelope and hares on the farm there are no ‘pests’ that are of economic importance. We encourage wildlife as it is an integral part of the farm and the little they take we see as a part of our contract with nature.

First crops are harvested after the third year. In the earlier years the yield is kept low so as to not overstress the young vines. Harvesting is done by hand – we usually start with Sauvignon Blanc and finish with Mourvèdre.

Our Cellar

In the design of Saronberg’s Cellar we considered a variety of production facilities and available techniques, looking to utilize existing technology in an innovative way. Hence we incorporated the force-cooling of grapes, intensive hand-sorting and the use of gravity during the fermentation process.

We essentially wanted a hands-on cellar that would provide the winemaker with many options, allowing him to focus on detail while adhering to our winemaking philosophy.

Our grapes are hand-harvested in the early morning and then rapidly force-cooled to 4° C in order to preserve fruit quality and flavour intensity. Saronsberg was the first cellar in South Africa to employ this technique. The grapes are hand-sorted on stainless steel vibrating tables manned by two teams of 25 people each for 20 hours a day at a rate of one ton per hour. Firstly we sort the bunches, then we do destemming. The individual berries are then sorted on the remaining two tables where all stems, green berries, raisins, etc. are removed before being gently crushed into a satellite tank. By using the satellite tanks to transport the crushed berries to the fermentation tanks we maximize the use of gravity and avoid having to pump the mash. We use both open and closed fermenters with automatic temperature control. The fermenters are sized according to our vineyards and can hold anything from two to eight tons each, with the average yield being 4.5 tons per hectare (30 hl/ha). The grapes from each of the vineyard blocks are fermented and kept separately for 10 months until the blending takes place. Most of the grapes undergo a cold soak prior to fermentation, after which the tanks are heated and inoculated with chosen yeasts. All the fermentation tanks are punched down, by hand, to extract flavour and colour. In addition, we do pump-overs or ‘délestage’ the tanks.

After fermentation, the wine may be left on the skins for extended skin contact. The elevated fermenters are emptied straight into the press and the juice is drained by gravity, usually straight into the barrel. Malolactic fermentation usually occurs in 300 litre barrels. The wine spends up to 18 months in the barrel. Where necessary the wine receives a light eggwhite fining before being bottled.

We use 95% French oak and 5% American oak barrels. Six different coopers’ barrels are used, each with a specific contribution to the desired flavour profile and structure of our wines. This general process varies according to cultivar, desired wine style and terroir. At its conclusion, we entrust the wine to you for safekeeping until that special moment when you savour it on your own or enjoy it with good friends.

Some interesting facts about the cellar:

• We harvest about 400 tons of grapes, of which 70% red and 30% white. • We bottle 15000 cases (180 000) bottles annually. • Two ranges are produced: Saronsberg and Provenance. • The Saronsberg range consists of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Shiraz, a Rhone-style blend (Full Circle), a Bordeaux-style blend (Seismic), and a MCC. • The Provenance range consists of Shiraz, Shiraz Rosé, a Bordeaux-style blend (Rooi), and a white blend (Earth In Motion). • All our wastewater is treated in-house by means of a specialized treatment plant and recovered for use in the gardens and paddocks. • We have dedicated cellars that are temperature controlled for malolactic fermentation, barrel maturation and bottle ageing. • Bottling is done on the premises. • All red wines are bottle-matured for a minimum of one year prior to release.

People

We house 15 families on the farm, most of whom have been here for many years. “Our winery would be nothing without the people”, says winemaker Dewaldt Heyns. “Their contribution is invaluable, We are a small team, but together we bring a wealth of experience to the job. It is a privilege to work as a part of this family.”. Saronsberg management offers more than just employment, uplifting cellar staff through ongoing training. This committed team has combined technical expertise and obsessive attention to detail to achieve outstanding results. Since our first vintage the farm has come to rank among the top performers in the country, increasingly achieving success in winning domestic and international awards. This consistent quality in all our wines from one vintage to the next can be attributed to Dewaldt’s vision and attention to detail. Dewaldt grew up on his father’s grape farm in the Swartland and has always had an intimate relationship with the vine. After completing his studies at Elsenburg Agricultural College (Stellenbosch) in 1995, he was appointed viticulturist/assistant winemaker at Rust en Vrede, which greatly influenced his winemaking and viticultural philosophy. In 2003 he joined Saronsberg as winemaker and was part of building and establishing the brand new cellar. The results speak for themselves. Apart from study trips to various countries, Dewaldt also did harvesting stints at Dry Creek Vineyards, Sonoma, California and Domaine Cave Yves Cuilleron, Condrieu, France.


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