A group of Danish sommeliers and chefs recently visited the winelands – and two of the presentations and tastings which had the most impact for them involved terroir.
DGB’s head winemaker Niel Groenewald cleverly got the Danes to wrap their heads around South Africa’s soil diversity by presenting them with Chenin Blanc and Shiraz from four distinctly different areas.
First up were the white and red wine from Darling, followed by Paarl, Stellenbosch (Bottelary specifically) and finally Elgin. Accompanying each set was a Powerpoint demonstration of the area’s location, courtesy of Google Earth images, prevailing climatic and weather information and, of course, the all important soil information, age of vines and whether bush vine or trellised. Even a novice would have picked up the differences in the wines – but to say the Danes were impressed would be putting it mildly. It was also a very smart demonstration of Chenin Blanc’s potential.
Later the same day Somerset West winery Waterkloof provided a perfect demonstration of how it obtains concentration and intensity in its wines: the wind was buffeting the delegation as it stood in the Sauvignon Blanc vineyard overlooking a whitecap-covered False Bay! With the wind serving as a natural devigorator, low yields are guaranteed.
Farm manager Christaan Loots admitted that when owner Paul Boutinot mentioned that Waterkloof would be farmed biodynamically he had some reservations. Yet listening to his recitation of the benefits no-one was in any doubt of him having come on board – fully!
Loots even introduced the Danes to the five draught horses which work the vineyards. “We sold one of our tractors this year,” Loots proudly said. “Eventually we should have no tractors on the farm. The horses will do all the work.” Then there were the sheep which graze in the vineyards, along with the chickens, the four Jersey calves and the Dexter cow and her calf. Her lactation is vital to Loots’s biodynamic preparations for the vineyards.
He also pointed out the hardware – the rig the Percherons pull which, in real ‘Boer maak n plan’ fashion, was constructed after Loots researched ancient Roman chariots! It’s been modified to incorporate a simple braking system because of the slopes on Waterkloof but Loots reports that it works perfectly.
The impact of these gentler and more natural farming methods was again demonstrated to the Danes. Hands in the soil underneath the vines revealed soft texture, organic material and life forms as well as coolth and improved water retention.