Today I am releasing the new 2017 vintage of Retirement@65 – a blend of mainly Cinsaut with a dash of its neighbouring Syrah vineyard.
The 2016 vintage was so well received that this wine is now officially part of our ongoing range. The 2017 vintage though, is next level! A wine I can highly recommend you try. I prefer it to the 2016. To read the unique story of how this vineyard survived the onslaught of nature and beast to eventually, and quite ironically come of age at the retirement age of 65, see below:
Retirement@65 2017 – Far removed from the style the new world is typically known for, this wine is elegant, balanced, fresh and drinkable – driven by perfume rather than fruit. The first time wine from this block ever made it into bottle in its 65 years of existence, was in 2016. Then in 2017, as every year, we tried to improve our management of the vineyard as well as the facilitation process of the grapes turning themselves into wine. The result is yours for the tasting.The label is a linocut I made to celebrate the fact that we won and the sheep lost.
The Story behind Retirement@65:
In June 2014, I arrived at a farm in Darling where I was met by a very grumpy farmer. And for good reason I soon learnt. I had bought bits of grapes from the farmer during that year’s harvest (which all turned out really promising) and was doing my annual post-harvest farm visit with a fresh barrel sample for the farmer to taste.
One of his grape clients had previously persuaded him to farm a little Cinsaut vineyard by method of minimum intervention. Not in a organic kind of a way, but more towards a 300% leave-the-vineyard-to-be kind of way.
To make a long story short, due to many contributing factors, all the grapes of this little Cinsaut vineyard ended up going to the pigs and he was blaming his minimum intervention 300% leave-the-vineyard-to-be client for all of this. To make matters worse, for the 62 years prior to this, the vineyard hardly produced grapes sufficient to produce wine with. You see, his grandfather planted the vineyard in 1951 and had still used a horse to plough the land. The vineyard is on the edge of the mountain in a little valley and the only food source around. So as the berries accumulated sugar, the birds would hop from bunch to bunch pricking the berries with their beaks, causing them to rot. And by the time the grapes ripened there weren’t much left. Now things like this interest me. I asked him if we could give it one more try.
He reluctantly agreed on the basis that he farms the block the way he believes one should. I, in turn, agreed to buy bird nets to cover the vines and we had a deal. So mid 2014 the vines were neatly pruned and he took care of the weeds. That spring, after bud break, the first soft green shoots appeared. Everything looked good! Then, one Sunday afternoon, I received a photo on whatsapp. It was the vineyard in question with about 20 odd sheep feeding in the vineyard and no sign of the newly formed soft shoots – only brown stumps remaining as the vineyard celebrated it’s 64th birthday. Late that Friday night his sheep had broken through the fence and ate everything green in colour. So there went another crop and the farmer got even more despondent.
But he didn’t give up and so, in June 2015, he raised the fence. In early November we covered the whole vineyard in bird nets. Finally, in February 2016 (for the first time in 65 years!) the vineyard survived the onslaught of wild animals roaming the hillsides of Darling and we picked a very small, but healthy, crop.
The result was the 2016 vintage of Retirement@65. Who said life stops at retirement?