Most of you Gautengers will be green with envy if you could see where I’m writing from now! I’m sitting in between stacks of full wine barrels at the most beautiful boutique winery – ROMOND, where I’m making wine this season (you can only purchase Romond wines from one place in the whole country, but I’m in the process of making it accessible to all of you). We harvested some Pinotage over the weekend and I’m currently making a Pinotage Rose as well as a heavy full blooded Pinotage. Out there in the sweltering heat, the remainder of the Pinotage grapes, as well as some Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are gaining sugars in preparation for their BIG day.
But I can’t wait to tell you the next chapter in the making of my Sauvignon blanc in a single garage!
Setting the scene: By now the grapes I bought for the wine (from Miravel farm on the slopes of the Helderberg overlooking False Bay) were almost ready for harvest…ripe, sweet and juicy. My friend Francois was put in charge of the harvesting process. The winery setup was my baby. Francois finally harvested the grapes on the morning of Wednesday the 3rd of March 2004 (Grapes are preferably harvested in the cool early morning temperatures, putting less strain on the cellar cooling system). He then stored the cool grapes in the neighbours’ cooling room for the day at a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius. When Francois had finished his (official) work, he rocked up at our winery at 19:00. Ready for action… (At this point my wife, who was on her way to the “cellar”, drove past my father as he was coming back from it. The only thing he said to her was: “If you’re going that way, you need nerves of steel“)
We only got going properly at 20:00. First of all, we put the grapes through a little machine called a destemmer. The destemmer removes all the stems and break the skins of the grapes. From there we pumped it into the press. We made use of a brand new, but old design grape press. The press took a bit longer than an automatic one but this enabled us to ensure just enough skin contact between the grape juice and the skins. Most of the the flavour compounds are situated under the skins of the berries. You therefore need exactly the right amount of skin contact – enough to get flavour but not too much, as that’ll extract too many harsh tannins. We then pumped the juice into the stainless steel tank, fitted with our STATE-OF-THE-ART home-made cooling system. We worked right through the night and when the sun finally rose, I cleaned up as Francois had to get back to work. The juice was beautiful! I added some SO2 (acts as an anti-bacterial agent and anti-oxidant) and enzymes (helps to get all the murky components down to the bottom of the tank). Our cooling system worked like a charm. 12 hours after that, all the murky components had settled at the bottom of the tank. We pumped the clear juice into the fermentation tank and then inoculated the juice with yeast. The job of the yeast is to “eat” the sugar and produce CO2, heat and, most importantly, ALCOHOL.