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Harvest 2018 at Stellenrust
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The picking teams set off with their secateurs on February 6 this year - a full 12 days later than in 2017. It is Stellenrust’s latest start in 13 years. The 2017 winter was very dry but still cool enough; the slow temperature rise with summer onset allowed for slower, gentler ripening.

Don’t get us wrong: the Cape drought is bad - seriously bad. One of our irrigation dams did not lend one single drop of water to the vines this year. Yet, the cool canopies of our bush vine Chenin Blanc gave welcome shade to protect the grapes from sunburn.Warmer conditions led to quick ripening and the harvest team had their hands full taking in one third of our entire grape harvest within 10 days! Quality from dryland vineyards harvested from our properties looks exceptional, despite the drought. Analyses on the juice are slick and the wines that have finished fermentation are delightful little fruit bombs. 2018 is definitely the year of the viticulturist and winemaker.

In the words of one of South Africa’s greatest winemakers - people may think harvest is so romantic, but actually it is like running a half marathon every day for two months, carrying two buckets of water over your shoulders while preparing for a daily chemistry exam. Well, it’s not all that bad! At least the guys in the cellar are still smiling…maybe more like grinning, but we’ll call it smiling. 

Conservation, fundamental, elemental Lion's share

Stellenrust’s conservation efforts continue going from strength to strength. Through the non-profit sales of Cecil wine we have generated R250 000 in the past year which was donated through the SATIB conservation trust to Wilderness Safaris – this again supports the Scorpion anti-poaching unit operating throughout Zimbabwe’s Hwange national park, situated close to the magnificent Ngamo plains.

By way of a reminder, Stellenrust’s Cecil Cabernet Sauvignon recalls the memory of a majestic male lion, Cecil, killed by American dentist and recreational big game hunter, Walter Palmer in 2015. It was a trophy hunt which made global headlines because Cecil, who was a magnificent specimen with a regal, black-tinged mane, was probably the most recognisable lion and a major attraction at Zimbabwe’s Hwange park. Palmer hunted Cecil with a bow and arrow – but the lion only died 40 hours later, shot with a rifle, after an extensive tracking operation. Coincidentally, Cecil was part of the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit study, initiated in 1999. Cecil had been radio-collar tagged in 2008 – making him one of the 62 lions whose movements and habits they monitored. Of that number 34 have died – 28 having being killed through sport hunting.

As ardent lovers of nature who need no excuse to escape to the bush to marvel at wild animals in their natural habitat, we at Stellenrust believe conservation needs every little bit of support that can be mustered – and is why we keep the memory of Cecil alive. (And we appreciate the role our loyal customers have in supporting the initiative and fund raising.)

As wildlife is fundamental in our daily business, so are our people.The people  who work the land and ensure every bottle carrying the Stellenrust brand tells the story of hard work and perseverance. Fairtrade generated almost R500 000 in 2017 which was paid into the worker’s Fairtrade account and resulted in tangible improvement in socio-economic conditions for our workers. One of the most obvious was extensions to the already high tech computer room used by both secondary and tertiary students from the farm. And then there were more bursaries to further secondary and tertiary education amongst our farm worker community.
Look out for brands currently carrying the Fairtrade seal of social sustainability sold throughout the world in countries like Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Finland and many many more.
 
Chenin Blanc is still the name of the game
 
With such a lot of huffing and puffing going on about the diversity of Chenin Blanc and how difficult it is for the consumer to understand which style is offered in a bottle without it being stated on the label (bored already –well, we are just by typing it), we decided to make a little scholar’s pack on Chenin Blanc. The winemaking team took a single block of vineyards, harvested the same morning, and just by playing around in the cellar, created three completely different wines from the same grape juice.
It’s a bit alchemical or ‘mad scientisty but they are:
 
The Naked Truth – the essence of Chenin Blanc. True to itself, dry to the bone with no wood and very little winemaker influence;
The Old Bush Vine – made in the classical Stellenrust style with just a touch of oak and a touch of sweet residual sugar pleasure to balance the palate.
The Indecent Obsession – like many winemakers, ours are just as full of themselves... This wine reflects their inherent urge (and ego!) to produce big, bold bottled bombs fermented in 100% new oak with a big whack of residual sugar.
 
Arti - Farti!
 
We just spoke about winemakers going all geeky when they see certain grapes. In 2013, as you might be aware, we relaunched the JJ Handmade label with the Eight Pillars constituting eight red varieties we believe will pave the future path of South Africa wine. Yes, a bold statement! And of course, coincidentally  we have eight pillars in front of the cellar which came in quite handy when naming the wine range.

The first vintage, the 2013 scored a Platter 5 star on its release and is made up of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan (getting short breath?), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinotage. In the words of Christian Eedes of winemag.co.za when scoring it 93 points:  ‘The wine happens to be both pure and refreshing yet intricate – not nearly as exotic as you might think given the blend, but rather possessing a sense of completeness about it that perhaps comes from the winemaking team not being bound by any pre-existing template.’ 
 
Then of course, there is the wines made by the annual harvest team on inspiration of our young gun winemaker Herman du Preez: we call it the Apprentice range and in 2015 they made a White Cinsault from red Cinsaut grapes. The wine has received good reviews and Tim Atkin MW scored it 92 points.
 
Terroir also gets new meaning in the After Eight Shiraz made from a block of vineyards where viticulturist and winemakers joined hands to express the best the vines can offer. Aerial phenolic grafting footage shows four distinct flavours of black pepper, violets, blueberries and mint in the block of vines. There’s a tiny patch where these flavours overlap in utmost intensity, and that spot is harvested separately to produce this stunner of a Shiraz talking soil, soul and (in)sanity!
 
Bubbles, bubbles all my bubbles
 
Inspired by the wine category manager AND very good friend, Tony Dodds of MMI in Dubai, we developed a Chenin Blanc sparkling in a Prosecco style. With our Italian heritage and our love of Chenin Blanc, we thought it a match made in heaven - and so it was.

We have produced bottle fermented sparkling wine from Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay called the Clement de Lure in a Cremant de la Loire style for the last 10 years, and thought it apt to push our love for the Loire, our passion for Chenin Blanc and our Italian heritage forward in this lip smacking, Golden Delicious apple sparkle of a bubbly.  Very few  sparkling wines in South Africa are made in the Charmat method like Prosecco, through tank fermentation. The only difference, we love our Chenin Blanc where the Italians love their Glera. The Chenin Blanc Spumante has been immensely successful since its launch and continues to grow, gaining new fans every month.  

Tel: +27.218802283   Fax: +27.218802284   Email: info@stellenrust.co.za  
Off the R44 between Stellenbosch & Somerset West, On the Stellenrust Road, Stellenbosch NU, Stellenbosch, 7600, Koelenhof, 7605, South Africa
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