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Taking the High Ground

It all began when I returned from my travels in Europe; realised that South Africa does not have a cool continental climate vineyard like the famous vineyards of Europe.


Taking the High Ground

I was up for the challenge and set out to find such a cool continental terroir locally. My quest took me to the remote area of Sutherland, in the arid Karoo. As a result, the first vines were planted on the sheep farm Kanolfontein, in 2004; and as Emile Joubert (from winegoogle.co.za) so candidly put it: ”it’s the kind of place you send mountain goats to for boot-camp”.

High Altitude Shiraz

We planted the first Shiraz vines at an altitude of 1500m and 350kms inland from the coast, a terroir of cool summers and notorious cold nights...high enough to escape the fiercest of hot Karoo days and to ensure the vines are covered with snow in winter. All resulting in thehighest vineyards in South Africa and planted in the coldest region, something truly unique.

It is my belief that, with a microclimate characterized by its low humidity, dry winds, clear skies and high light intensity, the famous continental varieties of Europe, such as Weisser Riesling, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, will absolutely thrive there. In turn, making even better wines in the region with the ideal continental conditions, compared to when they are planted along the coast.

Sneeuberg

Situated at the foot of Sneeuberg Mountain, which feeds it with fresh water from the melting snow in winter and the occasional 'illusive', isolated rainfall. The vineyard is blessed with ancient, deep scali and clay soils, a result of ancient layers of soil deposited here over time. This is what I have dreamt of, knowing that everything starts with the soil.

If the soil does not meet certain requirements, it is useless trying to make a great wine. As a rule, 'poor' soil such as this, with its complex structure and good aeration, will be ideal for fine wine production, with many nuances in its bouquet and taste. The incredible depth will give very deep root penetration and help the vines to still flourish during the extreme conditions of the dry summer season.

A Cool Climate

The high altitude ensures cool temperatures in summer not exceeding 32°C during day time and as low as 5°C during the night. These low average temperatures have a major beneficial impact on the flavours. We feel adamant that the high light intensity is one of the main factors that contribute to the super-ripe and supple tannin structures we achieve from the vineyards. The fruit in general carries a number of unique characteristics; with berries and bunches literally half the size of the average fruit from other winegrowing regions, offering us remarkably concentrated fruit with great colour and low yields.

Because of the remoteness of the vineyard and the cold winter temperatures, the area is completely free of disease and we have not sprayed a single drop of pesticide. Although black frost is a huge hurdle to overcome during spring when the young shoots are at their most vulnerable, I believe strongly in the potential of this unique winegrowing terroir. Every vintage tells its own story, and due to the conditions, every vintage is never guaranteed in this area of extremes.

Paradise Tax

This tiny parcel of greenery seems like paradise to all the birds and baboons of the Karoo, as they feast blissfully on the ripening grapes! We have tried many tricks to combat the baboons and birds from eating all the fruit, but perhaps it is the 'tax' we have to pay to the local-animal life, to continue this unique expedition.

Super Single Vineyards

As a 6th Generation winemaker, I am truly excited by the possibilities of sourcing only the finest fruit in South Africa; sourced from single vineyards.  Over the past few years I have continued to adhere to our philosophy with our wines, wanting to express purity of fruit, elegance and finesse. We strive to capture the essence of a specific sites’ terroir, in the bottle.

Extremely excited about the prospects of the Mount Sutherland Wines, I am pleased with the progress up until now. The Mount Sutherland vineyards have now reached maturity, and we are thrilled about what upcoming vintages may hold. We are confident about the future, and look forward to producing some distinctive wines at Super Single Vineyards.

 

Published On: 03/22/2017

Daniel de Waal

Twitter @SSVineyards

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