The wine you enjoy this evening is like a time capsule. An ode to when it was made, the origin, the terroir, and the passion put into every bottle. For winemakers, the journey of their wine from grape to glass is one of a thousand decisions.
Which grape varieties to plant, and where? When to pick the grapes? Should one use stainless steel or oak barrels? Is the aim a natural or ‘non-intervention’ wine, or will the wine maker follow a traditional wine-making process and technique? These are just a few of the main considerations behind every bottle of wine produced across the globe.
Location (terroir) is significant when it comes to making good wine and influences the flavour profile of the wine. However, it requires a skillful team to maximise the potential of a particular site. Here’s how the process works:
Harvesting and sorting
Harvesting is the first step of the wine-making process. The timing of when to harvest the grapes is crucial, as this will determine the style and the flavour profile of the wine.
Knowing when the time is right to harvest requires much skill on the part of the wine-making and vineyard teams, who assess the grapes by taste first before conducting a chemical analysis – weighting up the flavours, sugar levels and pH, and who also check the vineyards regularly throughout each day to ascertain if the vines can sustain the crop any longer or if it is time to harvest the grapes.
It is a balancing act – you don’t want the sugars too high or the pH levels too high but at the same time a vineyard can reach a point where it cannot sustain the grapes any longer and you have to harvest – even if the flavour profile is not exactly what you want at the time.
At Groot Constantia, as a smaller production winery, we perform our harvest by hand. All of our sorting is then done in the vineyard and not at the cellar – and of course only the best grapes are selected.
Crushing and pressing
When it comes to making white wine, only the juice is used – separating the juice from the skins and pulp. The grapes are de-stemmed and pressed immediately upon picking and then after a few days the clear juice is siphoned off the top, a process called racking, to make white wine.
For red wines, the grapes are crushed and the juice is fermented on the skins to extract maximum flavour, colour and tannins.
When making white wine, once the clear grape juice has been racked, Groot Constantia add a cultured yeast which helps to reduce risks during the fermentation process and make a more consistent quality wine.
Red wine is fermented on the skins during which time it is mixed four times a day, either by punch downs or pump overs. After fermentation, the wine is left on the skins for a month to extract more tannin before it is separated and pressed from the skins.
Clarification and filtration of white wine
After fermentation, the yeast and other solids settle to the bottom of the tanks, and the wines are racked from the sediment. Part of the process of getting wine ready for bottling requires the removal of unstable proteins, this is done by fining the wine with bentonite.
Ageing and bottling
The ageing of a wine differs according to the type (red or white) and the varietal. For example, with a varietal such as the Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc, the wine is put into stainless steel tanks to develop for four months before being bottled. The Groot Constantia Chardonnay however spends up to 10 months in French oak barrels before it goes to bottling.
Just before bottling, white wine is cooled down to remove crystals and finally filtered before going into the bottle.
Groot Constantia’s bottled harvest celebration
We will soon be assessing the outcomes of the 2020 harvest at Groot Constantia in order to create the 4th ever vintage of Lady of Abundance – a complex, blended premium red wine which is intensely rich in flavour with good ageing potential.
Creating this unique blend really shows the diversity of the land. It is too soon to say what the 2020 vintage of Lady of Abundance will be a blend of, but we can promise it will be as exceptional as the last.
Inspired by the statue of the Lady of Abundance that stands on the gable of the Groot Constantia Manor House, this latest wine in the Groot Constantia family pays homage to the abundance of the estate’s diverse terroir, which has uninterruptedly been producing top wines for 335 years. Groot Constantia Wine Estate is the oldest wine-producing farm in South Africa and its hand-crafted wines continue to win awards around the globe – collectively winning well over 100 Gold Awards in the past ten years alone.
For every bottle of Lady of Abundance wine sold, Groot Constantia will donate R5 to the Constantia Primary School. Groot Constantia has supported this school with a variety of initiatives over many years and will continue contributing on an annual basis to the salary of one of the teachers.
For more information visit www.grootconstantia.co.za or connect with Groot Constantia via social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @GrootConstantia.