Elgin vintage experience 3, Almenkerk

almenkerk

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

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is one of Almemkerk’s talents, and while the block we looked at isn’t quite ready, they are already picking another.

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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.

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Sauvignon Blanc waiting to be processed

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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.

Crushed Sauvignon in the press, with dry ice pellets sitting on top

Crushed Sauvignon in the press, with dry ice pellets sitting on top

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The press fills and is ready to go

The press fills and is ready to go

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.

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Cabernet Sauvignon: the shoots are allowed to droop a little to keep the berries in dappled light

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Syrah, beginning to dimple a little

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Chardonnay

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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.

The ferment has slowed right down and is almost dry, so it's time to press

The ferment has slowed right down and is almost dry, so it’s time to press

Filling the press

Filling the press

Free run juice

Free run juice

Almost full

Almost full

Joris with the press

Joris with the press

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The cake of skins that remains

The cake of skins that remains

ELGIN HARVEST EXPERIENCE

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

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