Swartland Wines: From Revolution to Evolution (by wine-searcher.com)

Posted: December 31, 2012 by wynmaker in Celebrities, Cellars, Chenin Blanc, Oenology, South Africa, Vinification, Vintage, Wine, Winemaking, Wineries, World wine news
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A bunch of South African wine rebels are becoming increasingly law-abiding.
By Rebecca Gibb | Posted Monday, 31-Dec-2012
On a hot spring day in the isolated village of Riebeek Kasteel, a group of bearded men sport Che Guevara-inspired T-shirts and workers’ caps declaring that they are part of “The Swartland Revolution.”

But it’s about time they ditched the “R” in “Revolution,” as the surrounding wine-growing region now appears to be in a happy phase of evolution.

The revolution took place “around 10 years ago when Charles [Back] started Spice Route,” explains Chris Mullineux of Mullineux Wines. “There were around 10 wineries then; today there are 32.”

In the past decade, the region has made its mark, moving from the mass-produced, high-alcohol wines traditionally made in Swartland to carefully crafted, more elegant examples. In terms of exposure, it helped that the people behind the wines were pretty kooky and the wines were not half bad.

While visitors to the region were spreading the word about this unconventional corner of South Africa, the local growers were making gradual changes. Since 2010, a new status quo has been established through rules and regulations.

The local producers formed the Swartland Independent Producers’ Association and introduced a code of practice for all members. It declared that acidification of wines was a no-no, despite relatively low acidities in this region making this a questionable idea.

“The secret of the Swartland is that this is a warm climate so the acidity is low, but the pH is healthy because of the old vines,” explains Mullineux. “If you were a fanatical winemaker, you would probably be tempted to acidify.”

In addition, their charter also states that there must be no yeast additions, so the ferments are all spontaneous; and there must be no chemical supplements to the fermentation, such as pectolytic enzymes, powdered tannins or water additions. Chemical fining is forbidden. Sulfur, which is a common antioxidant and antimicrobial, is allowed, but producers “are encouraged to make moderate additions” only.

The group has a lot of rules, considering that most of its members are non-conformists. Thankfully, for those of us who don’t subscribe to the bigger-is-better school of wine, most of the rules are a welcome relief when so many New World wines taste more like burnt toast, because of overly enthusiastic oak treatment obliterating the fruit. In Swartland, the wines must not be fermented or matured in more than… read on

 

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