Radford Dale Gravity 2010
|VARIETAL||40% Shiraz, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot|
|APPELLATION||Stellenbosch – Helderberg|
|PRODUCTION||730 (12 x 750ml.) cases|
In the Vineyard
The winter that preceded the 2010 season was cold and wet which meant that budding was quite even in the spring. The plentiful rains of the winter, together with the warm days of the summer months meant that the vines grew vigorously into January. Through careful planning and timing of manipulations to the foliage of each vineyard, we were able to not only control the strong vigor but perfect the balance between crop load and canopy size. Early February was marked by an intense heat-wave, but fortunately each of the vineyards that produce this wine were well buffered against the heat.
Each parcel of these vines is situated on ocean-facing, mountainous slopes of the premium Stellenbosch Appellation, on the Helderberg Mountain. These less hot maritime areas of Stellenbosch benefit thus from the cooling influence of the ocean, sanitising breezes and the relative altitude. Yields were kept low, at around 28 -35 Hl / Ha. We pre-select the fruit in the vineyard by dropping just ahead of picking any fruit which is not 100%. All grapes are hand-picked and pass over a sorting table, as a precaution. No grapes find their way into this wine unintentionally.
In the cellar
When each parcel is picked and every bunch has been hand-sorted, the grapes are destemmed and only lightly crushed. Then the fermentation vats are filled and grapes are chilled to around 12°C for a minimum of five days. This pre fermentation extraction technique is known as cold soaking and gives us a chance to extract the colour and essence of the grape form the skins as gently as possible. When fermentation does start, it does so completely spontaneously (‘’natural fermentation”) and without the aid of inoculated yeasts. With specific emphasis on gentle extraction the skins are submerged once or twice a day by manual cap punching. After fermentation the wine is left on skins for about ten days, which gives it more time to complete its leisurely extraction. The free-run juice is then drawn off and the pomace and skins are left over-night to drip-drain into “Demi-Muids”. (These are 600L French Oak barrels we have been importing to South Africa for well over a decade, having seen how beautifully they work in some of the great Syrahs of the Northern Rhone). These are not mechanical pressings but natural, gravitational pressings, which give rise not only to the name of this wine but to far more integrated and supple tannins in the final wine. Whatsmore, this juice is denser and richer than free-run, without the astringency of mechanical pressings. A Twilight zone, in miniscule proportions. A natural asset, coaxed out of obscurity. Malolactic fermentation occurs in barrel and Demi-Muids for optimum integration. After 9 months of maturation the individual components are then racked-out, assembled for the first time in tank, then returned to barrel, harmonised, to complete maturation over a further 5 or 6-month period. This to our knowledge is a unique method in South Africa, it has produced a wine of depth, complexity and intensity, yet with finesse and class. By definition, 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…
Instead of producing the super ripe and overblown wines that seem to dominate the premium red blend category, our aim with Gravity has always been to craft a complex and seamless blend, of uncommon character, reflecting the fine balance between fruit ripeness and earthy vinosity that we can achieve in this wondrous mountain vineyard. The exceptional structural integration of the tannin into the overall palate of the wine is its hallmark. Each varietal contributes its unique facet; the Shiraz its persevering spiciness and its gutsy, supple body, the Cabernet its blueberry backbone and dense, ripe tannins, the Merlot its deep red-berry fruit and suave mouth-feel. All knitted together by patient hands-off maturation until the ensemble, as with all good blends, becomes more than the sum of its parts. The finish of the wine shows the maritime influence of False Bay in the guise of the fresh acidity and savoury minerality that may be enjoyed to its full, after decanting, with a hearty -and preferably festive- dinner…
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