Vintage 2015 will go down in the books as a new chapter in the history of Du Toitskloof Wines, the well-known wine cellar at the gateway to the Breedekloof Valley near the town of Rawsonville. With the harvest commencing towards the end of January, the grapes from the winery’s 22 farmer-shareholders are being treated in a brand new harvest facility which was erected on the premises over the past four months.
“Myself and the team have some really awesome equipment to ‘play’ with,” says Cellar Master Shawn Thomson. “The new cellar was built from scratch and has been equipped with everything a winery of our size could wish for. This includes two new pneumatic Bucher presses capable of handling 32 tons of grapes each, six separators and 10 settling tanks each holding 40 000 litres.
“This new equipment has enabled us to do 400 tons of Sauvignon Blanc grapes a day, where in the past 250 tons was a big ask. With Sauvignon Blanc being our first variety harvested, this year’s harvest has gotten off to a great start as far as logistics are concerned. Farmers can off-load their grapes and get back to the vineyards immediately, with no time-consuming queuing issues.”
Du Toitskloof Wines’ new facility will be capable of handling 700 tons of grapes daily if required. The cellar harvests an average of 15 000 tons per annum.
“With the Du Toitskloof Sauvignon Blanc being our calling card, I am really excited about what effect technology is going to have on our wine quality from this year onwards,” says Thomson. Both the new Bucher presses are connected to two flexible containers of nitrogen which is drawn into the presses to ensure fruit is processed in a totally oxygen-free environment. For Sauvignon Blanc, this is ideal and so far the juice has shown wonderful natural freshness which bodes well for our wine.”
Du Toitskloof is the first winery in South Africa to use 32 ton presses of this nature.
Thomson says that to date, yields are lower on Sauvignon Blanc. “Most of the grapes are coming in at between 20.5 and 23 ° Balling, allowing us to spread our combination between the tropical and more brisk, green flavours,” he says. “On the red side the farmers with Pinotage have been bringing fruit featuring tight bunches and berries oozing black fruit flavours.”
This year’s harvest has been characterised by dry conditions, although the legendary Rawsonville heat has largely stayed away.
“Spring and early summer were surprisingly cool in the valley, but when we hit some real 35 degree-plussers in January and we all thought – right, that’s it, here we go,” says Thomson. “But after four days the heat abated and we are back to sunny, temperate conditions, hence the healthy fruit we are getting. Let’s hold thumbs it stays this way.”