Day 3 of my Elgin harvest experiences was at Almenkerk, hosted by owners Joris van Almenkerk and Natalie Opstaele. They are great fun and have a really thoughtful, scientific approach to farming. The day began with a farm tour, riding pilion with Joris as he took me through some blocks that were almost ready to pick.
Here’s a film of the day:
Sauvignon Blanc is one of Almemkerk’s talents, and while the block we looked at isn’t quite ready, they are already picking another.
We also looked at some Merlot. Joris has a keen instinct for viticulture. For Merlot, he’s looking to avoid the unpleasant green characters, so he untangles bunches early on (tangled bunches end up in uneven ripeness) and removes the shoulders, which are usually slower to ripen. The Almenkerk Merlot is one of the few South African examples that excite me.
Back in the winery, it’s time to sort Sauvignon before it is destemmed, crushed and then pumped to the press. The fruit is pretty clean so it’s just a question of looking for rot or raisins.
As the press fills, dry ice is added to keep the fruit cool (it’s already been through a must chiller on the way to the press) and to keep oxygen away. The free run juice drains and is pumped to tank. When the press is full it is closed and the press cycle of 2.5 hours is started. Sauvignon juice looks very different: it’s really green in colour. Usually Chardonnay juice is a sort of brown colour, which can be a bit alarming.
We hopped on Joris’ bike and went back into the vineyard to check on the Syrah, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. They were doing pretty well. Then it was time to press some Pinot Noir projects. Because these are small ferments, they are done with a basket press. And it’s a tiny basket press, worked by hand.
ELGIN HARVEST EXPERIENCE