Elgin vintage experience 2, Paul Cluver

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Elgin vintage experience 2, Paul Cluver

paul cluver elgin

Paul Cluver is the pioneering wine farm of Elgin. Dr Paul Cluver, a leading neurological consultant, planted vines here in 1987. ‘Everyone thought we were crazy,’ he said, because at the time apples were the main crop in the valley, and they were commercially successful. In the late 1990s, though, it was a tough time for apples and lots of second and third generation family farms ended up being sold. So grapes became more widely planted. Now, things have changed, and apples are once again highly profitable – so much so that some significant vineyards have been ripped up.

I spent the day taking part in vintage here at Paul Cluver, shadowing winemaker Andries Burger. This is a film of the experience:

The main task today was sorting 17 tons of Pinot Noir that had come in. The 2017 vintage is looking very promising, but there’s some uneven ripeness in the Pinot. So Andries is running a two-stage sorting process. First, there are six people sorting the bunches. Then, six more people sort the berries, once they have been destemmed. The sorted berries end up in a bin that is then tipped into the fermenting tank with a fork lift, to avoid pumping.

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Tipping the Pinot Noir berries into the fermenter
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Rejected grape bunches
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Stems

Every morning, all the ferments are tasted and checked for density (which tells you how much sugar is left, and is the way that the progress of the fermentation is checked). In most wineries, this is done using a hydrometer in a measuring cylinder full of wine. But Andries has a device that checks it automatically, which is quicker and more reproducible. It costs €3000, but he says it’s the best money he has ever spent.

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We also checked the progress of various blocks in the vineyard. Some Gewürztraminer was being picked: it’s a beautiful-looking grape.

Gewurztraminer

And we also looked at a couple of Chardonnay vineyards.

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Chardonnay
Chardonnay

The Riesling is doing well this year. The healthy bunches are picked first, then a short time after the bunches with some botrytis (noble rot) are picked for the Noble Late Harvest Riesling. There hasn’t been any for the last two years, but this year there probably will.

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Back in the winery, it was time to do some punching down of ferments. This is slightly precarious, because you need to apply enough pressure to force the floating mass of grape skins down, but not too much because they then give, and you could end up falling into the tank. These are deep tanks, and this would be very dangerous. Many people have suffocated in wineries because of the carbon dioxide produced by ferments. Apparently, an Italian stagiere fell into a ferment here a few years ago, but luckily survived, and that was during a pump over. That takes some doing: maybe he fell asleep.

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In one of the tanks, the fermentation had slowed so the cap of skins was protected by adding some dry ice. This stops the development of volatile acidity, which occurs in the presence of oxygen when the cap dries a bit.

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Finally, we finished the day going for a tour of this spectacular property with Dr Cluver.

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ELGIN HARVEST EXPERIENCE

  1. Iona
  2. Paul Cluver
  3. Almenkerk
  4. Elgin Ridge
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