Radford Dale Gravity

WINE Radford Dale
VARIETAL Shiraz, Merlot & Cabernet-Sauvignon
APPELLATION Stellenbosch –Helderberg & Devon Valley
alcohol 14% by vol.
total acidity 5.4 g/l
pH 3.7
residual sugar 2.2 g/l
PRODUCTION 900 (12 x 750ml.) cases

In the Vineyard

2009 was a wonderful vintage. Conditions were great throughout the year, and the results were written in top-notch red and white.

An excellent flowering and cooler-than-usual summer evenings extended the ripening season. There was also plenty of rain, which helped the grapes grow and ripen in almost ideal conditions.

The Cape’s never really short of sun, but when you add cool evenings and retained acidity in the grapes, you end up with better-balanced wines than those of the very hot vintages. Bunch and grape sizes were fairly small and free of rot, and the grapes tasted just as good as the balmy summer evenings.

Each parcel of Radford Dale vines is situated on the ocean-facing, mountainous slopes of the premium Stellenbosch Appellation (mostly on the Helderberg). These milder, maritime areas are kept cool and crisp by the ocean, and by the sanitising breezes and relative altitude.

No grapes find their way into these wines unintentionally. We pre-select the fruit in the vineyard by dropping just ahead of picking anything that isn’t 100%, plus all the grapes are hand-picked and passed over a sorting table. Yields were kept low in 2009, at around 28 to 35hl/ha.

In the cellar

Here are the steps we took to vinify the grapes:

  • Following the triage process (by hand), each batch was entirely de-stemmed and pre-fermentation cold soaked for about five days – all individually.
  • Pump-overs were done once a day, as for cap-punching.
  • Our emphasis is specifically not on over-extraction, but rather on finesse and depth. That’s why we left the wine on the skins for about 10 days after fermentation, before racking.
  • One component saw the free-run juice going directly to barrel (small barrels, using only artisanal French coopers, which we import directly), entirely by gravity.
  • The pomace and skins were left overnight to drip-drain – this time into “demi-muids” (600-litre French oak barrels, which we’ve been importing into South Africa for over a decade, having seen how beautifully they work in some of the great Syrahs of the northern Rhone). These aren’t mechanical pressings, but rather natural, gravitational pressings, which give rise to far more integrated and supple tannins in the wine – and the name of this very premium wine. The juice is denser and richer than free-run, without the astringency of mechanical pressings. A finely balanced force of nature.
  • A little micro-oxygenation was carried out in barrel and demi-muids, to further develop polished tannins, deepen the colour and intensify the flavour.
  • Malolactic fermentation occurred in barrel and demi-muids for optimum integration.
  • We generally kept the use of new oak to about one third at most, the rest being second, third and fourth fill.
  • The individual components were separately matured, on their primary lees, for about nine months.
  • The barrel wines were then racked out, assembled for the first time in tank, and then returned to barrel, harmonised, to complete maturation over a further five- or six-month period.
  • The demi-muids gravitational portion remained unracked and completely untouched until it was drawn from the demi-muids after 15 months, assembled with the barrel portion, settled for a month and bottled without fining or filtration.
  • As far as we know, this is a unique method in South Africa, and has produced a wine of depth, complexity, intensity, finesse and class. Production will always be highly limited (we don’t bottle Gravity every vintage) and can only come from our finest Stellenbosch grapes.

A word from the winemaker…

“In an era where overblown, in-your-face wines too often take precedence over individually crafted and complex wines, our standard-bearer strives to be singular. We aim for equilibrium between natural sweetness of fruit and integration of structure. Each varietal contributes its unique facets – the Shiraz its persevering spiciness and gutsy, supple body, the Cabernet its blueberry backbone and dense, ripe tannins, and the Merlot its deep red-berry fruit and suave mouthfeel – all knitted together by patient, hands-off maturation. This wine bears the hallmark of the region in which it was reared and the mineral soils in which it has its roots. Entirely selfishly, it is made with our own palates in mind.”

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