Every cellar has certain outstanding features in its processing facilities that contribute to its success in getting the best possible results from their grapes. In the design of Saronsberg’s cellar we considered a variety of effective production facilities and available techniques.
Our aim was not only to selectively combine these, but also to utilise existing technology in an innovative way. Hence we incorporated the force-cooling of grapes, intensive handsorting of all our grapes, and the use of “gravity” in the fermentation process. We essentially wanted a hands-on cellar that would provide the winemaker with a plethora of options, allowing him to focus on detail while adhering to our winemaking philosophy.
All our grapes are hand-harvested in the early morning. The grapes are then rapidly force-cooled to 4 ⁰C in order to preserve the fruit quality and flavour intensity. Saronsberg was the first cellar in South Africa to employ this technique. The grapes are then hand-sorted on three stainless steel vibrating sorting tables alternatively manned by two teams of 25 people each for 20 hours a day at a rate of one ton per hour. Firstly we sort the bunches, then destem. The individual berries are then sorted on the remaining two tables where all stems, green berries, raisins etc. are removed before being gently crushed into a satellite tank. By using the satellite tanks to transport the crushed berries to the fermentation tanks we maximise the use of gravity and avoid having to pump the mash.
We use both open and closed fermenters with automatic temperature control. The fermenters are sized according to our vineyards and can take anything from two to eight tons each, with the average yield being 4,5 tons per hectare (30 hl/ha). The grapes from each of our vineyard blocks are fermented and stored separately for 10 months after which blending takes place.
Most of the grapes undergo a cold soak prior to fermentation, the tanks are heated and inoculated with selected yeasts. Depending on the varietals we do some wild fermentation on certain batches to enhance complexity of the final blends. All the fermentation tanks are punched down – mainly by hand – to extract flavour and colour. In addition, we can use pump-overs or ‘delestage’ depending on the desired wine style as dictated by the vineyard.
After fermentation, the wine may be left on the skins for extended skin contact. The elevated fermenters’ wines are drained by gravity directly to barrels and the skins emptied into the press. Malolactic fermentation usually occurs in 300-litre barrels. The wine spends up to 20 months in barrel. We use 98% French oak and 2% American oak barrels. A total of seven different coopers’ barrels are used, each with a specific contribution to the desired flavour profile and structure of our wines.
This general process varies according to the cultivar, desired wine style and vintage variance. At its conclusion, we entrust the wine to you for safekeeping until that special moment when you savour it on your own or enjoy it with good friends.
A few interesting facts about the cellar:
• We harvest about 550 tons of grapes, of which 70% are red and 30% white.
• All our grapes are hand harvested.
• We bottle 22 000 cases (300 000 bottles) annually.
• All our waste water is treated in-house by a specialised treatment plant and recovered for use in the gardens and paddocks.
• We have dedicated cellars that are temperature controlled for malolactic fermentation, barrel maturation and bottle ageing.
• Bottling and bottle maturation is done on the premises.