Setting the scene: We now had a bit of finances to work with but we needed a client (crucial element!). A friend of mine introduced me to my first ever client. I was so excited! He basically wanted his own personal wine label, but had no grapes or winery. This was the easy part. Where it gets interesting is the part where he wanted me to make him a Sauvignon blanc. Sauvignon blanc is the most difficult white wine cultivar to make.
Everything with Sauvignon blanc boils down to 3 challenges:
1. You have to start with good quality Grapes.
2. The different flavours in Sauvignon blanc are attracted to Oxygen like a Stellenbosch student to a bottle of Tassenberg. It immediately binds to oxygen when it comes in contact with it, disappears into thin air and leaves you with a bland wine. You therefore need to make it in perfect anaerobic conditions (no oxygen present).
3. COOLING, COOLING, COOLING. Fermentation needs to be slow and needs to take place in very cool conditions.
Now, this might all sound simple to you, but you need special expensive equipment to control these challenges. At that point I still didn’t have a winery to show the client, but made a plan. I provided the client with a proposal and he agreed and signed… without asking to see the winery! We then had exactly a week before harvesting had to take place. That was the roughest week of my life. With his deposit, we had to setup a complete winery in less than a week. A winery can easily cost R100 million but we did it with a slightly lower budget.
In that week my friend Francois’ employees threw a new concrete floor for his single garage (his landlord paid). I painted the walls with some old paint I had at home, 2 friends insulated the roof with Styrofoam (off-cuts we got for free),
I bought a small destemmer (R3500), Press (R7000) 2 x 1000l stainless steel floating dome wine tanks (R9000),3 phase power (R1800), Chemicals (R2000) and a few extras for R2000. TOTAL SET-UP COSTS FOR WINERY: R25 300
You might note I haven’t mentioned anything about cooling! That’s because we decided to build our own cooling system to save costs….BIG MISTAKE. The cooling system was SUPPOSED to work as follows: The wine tank was fitted into a big bin-liner (a huge bucket that is made from plastic and takes half a ton of grapes) which we were going to fill with water and huge ice blocks. We were then going to pump the water from the bin-liner through a pipe that was wrapped around the tank. We made holes in the pipe and wrapped the tank in Hessian. The plan was for the cool water to be pumped out from the bin-liner and sprayed around the tank’s outside. It should’ve then ran all along the outside and drip into the bin liner to be circulated again. Logical right? WRONG. To view photos you can go the facebook (search for Pieter Walser). This episode happened just before the digital camera era entered so please excuse the quality. Next month we’ll harvest and show you how logical reasoning doesn’t always work.