Grande Provence reflects on extraordinary 2015 harvest

An unprecedented early start, the arrival of Italian clay amphorae capturing 6 000 years of winemaking, and a festive annual celebration have shaped the triumphant 2015 harvest at Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate in Franschhoek.

Described by Winemaker Karl Lambour as a “short and relatively cool harvest”, 15 January marked the earliest start on record for Grande Provence.

“From that day on, the temperatures played along and most varieties came in three to four weeks earlier than usual. The two days of harvesting our exquisite Sauvignon blanc never heated up to more than 24°C and the grapes show such immense concentration of flavour that we know the resultant wine will be a blockbuster,” notes Karl, adding that the Chardonnay destined for the estate’s reserve range shows incredible fruit definition.

“The four classic Bordeaux red varieties used in the eponymous The Grande Provence ripened without a single hot day and shows superb black fruit and tannin development. These are without doubt the best grapes I have ever worked with in any cellar,” adds Karl.

For the Grande Provence winemaking team, the piece de resistance of harvest 2015 is undoubtedly the arrival of two beautiful clay amphorae, shipped all the way from Italy.

Having previously tasted wine made in egg-shaped cement fermenters in France, Germany and locally, Karl has been in awe of the purity and precision that these wines show. A tasting of a Gamay noir fermented and aged on the skins in an egg-shaped clay amphora convinced him to invest in two without delay.

Then began the research into what to ferment in them. “I already harboured the ambition, almost artisanal desire, to make wine in a more natural idiom, having dabbled in some of the more available biodynamic principles when making wines at a previous winery. There is something to be said about following in the footsteps of ancient Greek and Roman winemakers who embraced this ‘technology’ thousands of years ago, using clay hewn out of the earth to cradle and nurture a living liquid,” explains Karl, adding that experiments in Australia and eloquently documented examples in Italy and Spain show much success with red varieties.

But it was the wine made with white grapes that really interested him; the allure of a complete departure from what consumers expect in a white wine – tannic, deeply coloured and unusually aromatic.

“We decided on a small block of 32 year old Chenin blanc in Franschhoek and carefully selected the very best yellow, sun exposed bunches to maximise the health, flavour and aromatic expression of the wine. The grapes were destemmed by hand into two 400 litre clay amphorae from Manetti Gusmano and Figli from Florence, Italy, with seven generations of experience used in crafting their superb vessels,” relates Karl.

With origins rooted in winemaking techniques harking back centuries, using the amporhae is the next chapter of winemaking at Grande Provence, stepping up to the plate “to make wine the way it was made 6000 years ago.”

Karl explains: “We understand now that tannins from seeds and skins help preserve the wine naturally. We know that using vessels made from clay allows the wine to ‘breathe’ during ageing and that the resultant wine needs less sulphur for stability.

“But, most of all, we know that with careful winemaking we can craft wines that are sound, that are the purest expression of their site and are wines that will haunt you in respect of their aromas, flavours and hue like no wine ever has. Manually punching down the rising cap of skins every day, searching for hotspots in the amphora’s contents and tasting the wine and the berries – as change occurs over time, I become more in tune with this wine than any wine I have made before.”

• Located in Franschhoek, the heartland of South African wine country, Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate embraces true South African wine heritage, excellent food and luxury accommodation. Part of The Huka Retreats, Grande Provence offers guests The Owner’s Cottage, La Provençale, The Restaurant, The Winery, The Jonkershuis, The Gallery, The Sculpture Garden and The Shop. For more information visit, or Twitter @grande_provence.

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Issued by: GC Communications
Contact: Clarissa du Plessis
Tel: +27 +21-462 0520

On behalf of: Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate
Contact: Karl Lambour


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