Chardonnay is undoubtedly one of the great wine producing grapes of the world, with statistics showing that it is the 5th most planted cultivar globally (second if you exclude red wine cultivars).
It is popular with producers and consumers alike – demonstrated by the facts that it is planted in more grape growing areas than any other grape and is the most widely recognisable cultivar internationally.
From the winemaker’s perspective Chardonnay is easy to work with and has the potential to produce excellent, quality focussed wines in a wide range of styles, while remaining terroir-expressive. Jean-Claude Martin, owner, cellarmaster and viticulturist of Creation Wines, says of Chardonnay:
“Chardonnay is generally regarded as quite a neutral cultivar and this is why the terroir seems to impact more on Chardonnay than on other white cultivars, which have very specific characteristics, such as the fragrant nose of Viognier or the tropical fruit tones of Sauvignon Blanc.
Chardonnay is most expressive of site which has an impact on the minerality of a wine.” On the hotly debated subject of minerality Jean-Claude says: “For us it is the effect of terroir which influences the growth pattern of the vine and therefore has an impact on the quality of the grapes as well as the winemaking style.” (It may be interesting to note that ‘site’ includes altitude, aspect, weather and soil conditions, while ‘terroir’ covers site, vineyard practice and winemaking.)
Chardonnay is prolific, with potentially high yields and vigorous canopy growth, so vineyard maintenance is a priority, although site and clone selection can go a long way towards managing vigour in the foundation phases. Lower yields result in noticeable concentration of flavour, especially from vines producing smaller berries.
It is an early budding variety but enjoys an even and slow growing season as found on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. Short spells of intense heat can lead to excessive sugar accumulation,but the cool night index and cooling influences of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the southwesterly seabreezes delay ripening here by up to two weeks compared to nearby areas.
In the cellar, Chardonnay presents the winemaker with a number of options, most of which it responds to extremely well, being a malleable cultivar which easily adopts the personality of the winemaker and its terroir. Although Chardonnay traditionally benefits from oak maturation, un-oaked Chardonnay has become popular of late, ranging in style from leaner steely mineral-driven styles to riper tropical fruit-led wines (especially from warmer climates).
Oaked Chardonnay can also be lean and minerally in style, but oak adds texture, richness, complexity and in many cases allows for extended bottle ageing. In-barrel contact with lees (the dead yeast cells left over after primary fermentation) acts as a natural preservative and can lend an appealing creaminess to the mid-palate without compromising freshness and structure. It can also add autolytic flavours – this can be encouraged by batonage, the process of stirring up lees in the barrels as the wine undergoes oak maturation.
Malolactic fermentation – the conversion of aggressive malic acid (present in the grape at harvest time) to mild acid called lactic acid – occurs during secondary fermentation.This process lowers the perceived acidity of the wine, making it rounder on the palate. Some winemakers believe that it can also mitigate the harshness associated with new oak, softening its dominance and allowing for better integration.
The Creation Chardonnay 2013 seeks to balance the richness and depth of judicious oak maturation with excellent acidity and generous fruit. It was produced from three Dijon clones planted on east and southeast facing slopes:
76 – Medium bunch weight; balanced and restrained wines. Good quality and regular production.
95 – Medium bunch weight; fuller richer aromatic wines. Performs well in most situations.
96 – Leaner wines structurally with good acidity, good quality and regular production.
All three clones are quality focussed and suited to heavier soils like the clay derived Bokkeveld shale soils of the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge which are 450 million years old. Thanks to soils lending structure and considered clonal choices helping to control vigour, Creation Chardonnay has quickly established itself as a wine of rare elegance, balance, distinction and finesse. Barrel fermented in 30% new oak, the 2013 vintage was aged for 8 months in barrel with fortnightly batonage.
How to start a wine club
Who do I invite?
You may already have a fair idea of who you would like to join you in establishing a wine club. Friends and family are the easiest place to start and wine tasting is a great after-hours team building social activity for work colleagues.
Use social networks such as Twitter or Facebook as a platform to test the waters and generate some interest. Get a feel for what appeals to people and see how it fits in with your own vision of a wine club. Although it may be tempting to throw a big party with lots of wine, it’s best to start small with about 6 – 10 eager oenophiles – there will be plenty of time to expand it as your interest in wine grows.
Location, Location, Location
Most wine clubs meet once a month, with the location rotating so that each member gets a chance to host the meeting. Private homes are usually preferable to meeting in restaurants or hiring a venue, however once your wine club becomes more serious it is great fun to have an intimate food and wine pairing evening at your favourite local restaurant.
The venue should have adequate comfortable seating, good natural light and facilities for chilling wine.
What else do I need?
Once you have decided on a time and a place, it is best to start planning your wine club well in advance to avoid any unnecessary stress and to ensure that you can relax and enjoy the experience on the day. There are a few basic items and ideas that will help you avoid any pitfalls.
It is always a good idea to decide on a theme for the tasting – this will help you to choose the wines as well as set the mood. There is so much variety that the list of possible themes is endless, here are some ideas:
- Cool climate vs warm climate
- Interesting and unusual varietals
- Wines from a certain area
- A specific cultivar from different areas
- Vertical tastings
Creation has provided you with wine assessment forms so that you can record your impressions and evaluate the wines you taste professionally. These can then be filed and used as a reference. Our assessment form also includes a tasting wheel, which will help you to describe the wines you taste and assess them professionally.
- Stemware (see below the importance of stemware)
- Crackers or cheese
- Ice water and water glasses
Preparations on the day:
Make sure that your glasses are clean, free of aromas and polished. Set them out with white wine glasses on the left and red wine glasses on the right. Wine should be opened a few hours before the tasting to allow it to breathe. You may also want to decant the wine if you don’t have a lot of time beforehand to allow the wine to breathe.
How to Taste Wine
Although tasting wine may seem a simple matter of raising a glass to your lips and taking a sip, there are a number of processes that take place, and understanding these is a vital part of tasting wine. Remember that the palate can only distinguish a few basic tastes: salt, sweet, bitter, sour and umami.
Our sense of smell, however, can pick out millions of unique scents, and it is the combination of these two as well as the mouth-feel of the wine that determines the overall flavour profile. So here are the 3 simple steps to follow when assessing wine:
1. Colour and Clarity
The best way to do this is to tilt the glass against a white background and inspect the colour, from the rim to the centre, and take note of the clarity and opacity of the wine.
White Wine ranges from pale lemon to deep yellow
Red Wine ranges from deep purple to pale garnet
Our sense of smell is critical in analysing a glass of wine. While there are only 5 different taste receptors, the bouquet of a wine can have thousands of different interpretations.
Finally! Start with a small sip and let it roll around in your mouth, reaching every part of the palate.
You will find that there are three distinct stages that the wine will go through on the palate.
Your first impression. This stage is influenced by alcohol content, tannin levels, acidity and residual sugar. These four factors affect the structure of the wine – how it feels in the mouth. They all work together to make the wine feel heavy or light, fresh or creamy, dry or sweet. This also gives a good impression of the intensity and complexity of the wine. Ideally these components will be well-balanced: one component will not be more prominent than the others. Note that you have not yet started looking for specific flavours.
The second stage is the evolution of the wine and takes place on the mid-palate. This is the wine’s actual taste. In this phase you can discern the flavour profile of the wine. In red wine you may start noting fruit – berry, plum, prune or perhaps some spice – pepper, clove, cinnamon and maybe some earthiness or oak or smokiness. In white wines you will find tropical or citrus fruits and floral notes like peach blossoms or rose petals.
The third and final stage is called the finish. This is how long the flavour of the wine lasts after it is swallowed, and the flavour of the aftertaste. This can also indicate other factors such as how dry the wine is or whether it is light (the texture of water) medium-bodied (the texture of milk) or full-bodied (the texture of cream).
Tasting Wheel (Get a PDF of the tasting wheel here)
If you have a small group of friends who appreciate the delights of wine, whether they are amateur enthusiasts or connoisseurs, starting a wine club may be just the right thing for you.
1. The exchange of knowledge
Wine clubs are a great way to learn about wine, not only training your palate by regularly tasting and comparing wines, but also offering a relaxed and informal platform for discussions about wine in general. The inherent subjectivity of taste makes for diverse opinion and spirited debate – what more could a wine lover ask for?
Starting a wine club implies a certain formalisation of wine appreciation – it requires some planning and a group of likeminded people, but the exact structure and format is totally up to you. Although this freedom may seem daunting, it offers the flexibility that many people prefer. You can choose the size, regularity and even the composition of your club.
Wine clubs will occasionally taste rare, fine or large format wines which can have a hefty price tag. It is common for the members of the club to contribute equally towards the purchase price of the wines tasted. It is also common for club members to each bring a wine for the group to taste to make up the flight for the event. Alternatively events can revolve with members taking turns to host a tasting.
4. Wine producers will come to you
There are many wine estates that encourage interaction with private wine clubs, and winemakers or representatives will present their wines to the club or preside over food and wine pairing dinners. The club members receive the benefit of the experience and knowledge of wine industry professionals and the estates gain a base of loyal customers with a personal connection.
5. Social events
Wine clubs offer a regular time and place for friends and lovers of wine to share their passion. This makes it not only an educational experience but also an enjoyable social event. Tastings are often combined with meals in wine and dine evenings, and clubs visiting wine farms are often given personalised cellar tours and have the opportunity to taste from the barrels. These outings can range from a lunch and a walk in the vineyard, to a weekend of gourmand activities, to an entire week helping out on a farm during harvest, where you can experience the camaraderie of being part of a vineyard team.
Part 2: How to Organise your Cellar
Once you have decided which wines you would like to start your collection off with, one of the most important things to keep in mind is staying organised.
Although you may only start off with a few special bottles, you will soon find that wine accrues fairly quickly and you could lose track of your collection if you don’t stay on top of things. The danger in this is that wines may be past their best by the time you realise you still have a bottle lurking around in your cellar.
The wine cellar at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
The most important virtue when organising your cellar is to be diligent – consistently recording important details and regular revision and maintenance will pay off in the long term, while expanding your knowledge and frame of reference. The most common way to keep track of wine is a dual method: tagging each of the bottles for quick reference and keeping a separate journal, which goes into more detail. The precise information contained on the bottle tags and the journal is completely customisable but the following are some guidelines:
Bottle Tag Information:
Optimal drinking range
Personal tasting notes
Detailed notes on the region/producer
Specific vintage details
Remember to also make a note of how many bottles you have of each wine, and remember to update this every time you drink a bottle. This will allow you to pace yourself, and develop a rhythm. The main advantage of having your own well stocked cellar is the ability to buy wines young, cellar them yourself and enjoy them as they develop. This information can also be converted into an electronic database, which is much easier to manage.
The way that the wine itself is arranged within the cellar space is once again up to your individual requirements, although it is useful to remember that the temperature tends to rise towards the ceiling, and so wines requiring long term cellaring is better off lower down (although all wine should be raised off the floor to avoid potential moisture damage). If space is at a premium, consider storing wines in their cases rather than in display units but remember to mark mixed cases for easy reference. It is also worth remembering that not all bottles are the same shape and size, especially if you have a penchant for large format bottles, and so provision needs to be made for this as well.
Although many cellars will not require it, once your collection reaches a certain size, you may wish to insure your collection, especially if it contains rare or valuable wines. When a collection reaches this magnitude, however, it may be worth considering a fine wine storage specialist to store the majority of the wines off site, while you maintain a more manageable cellar at home, stocking it from storage as necessary.
To select some Creation wines for your cellar, CLICK HERE.
Read part 1 of the series: Collecting Fine Wine: Starting a Cellar
Welcome to this two-part blog series on starting and maintaining a wine collection.
Part 1: Starting a Cellar
It may seem a daunting task at first, but starting and maintaining your own cellar can be an incredibly rewarding hobby, whether you are a serious connoisseur or merely have the desire to learn about and enjoy wine in the comfort of your own home. A cellar does not have to be extensive or expensive to provide many memorable occasions, however, there are a number of points which should be considered once you have made the decision to start collecting wine.
Choosing a Cellar
A cellar can range from a dedicated underground room with a tasting area to a cupboard in the hallway, as long as the following conditions are favourable:
The intended size of your cellar will vary according to individual requirements. If you intend to buy wines to age or if you entertain frequently, you will likely require more space than someone who has a few token bottles to age and consumes the rest in a regular cycle. Once you have decided how much space you need, remember that wine likes to be stored in a stable environment.
Temperature controlled environments such as wine coolers are necessary in areas that experience large variations in temperature – the ideal would be a constant and cool 13 degrees Celsius. It is an interesting fact that on average, the number of chemical reactions taking place in wine doubles with every 8 degree increase in temperature, and storing wine at temperatures over 25 degrees could cause the wine to oxidise (age rapidly).
The ambient humidity is important when storing wines with natural cork for an extended period of time because low humidity could cause the cork to dry out. A humidity around 60% – 70% is a safe bet.
Direct sunlight or incandescent light is damaging to wine, especially delicate white wines (which for this reason often have heavily tinted bottles) and so darkness is usually preferred.
Choosing the Wine
Once you have found the perfect cellar and fitted it with appropriate storage you face the daunting task of stocking it with wine. Where to start? Well the most logical place to start would be to make a list of all the wines you enjoy drinking. Once you have listed your favourite cultivars or regions or wine estates, divide them up into red and white, and then into wines that can be aged and wines that are best consumed young. If wine requires cellaring before it is ready to drink, it will require more space than wine which is for immediate consumption as you tend to buy more of the wine you intend to keep.
Wine which is age-worthy will often see multiple vintages from numerous producers represented in your cellar. It may seem counterintuitive to buy wine now that is too young to drink, especially if you have the same wine at home, aged and perfect to open, however you can realise significant savings by buying wine young and cellaring it yourself. You will soon develop a rhythm as you taste a wine throughout its development and discover precisely at which point it has matured to your taste. This is one of the great joys of having your own cellar.
How much of each wine you purchase will also vary considerably according to individual requirements and taste. If you like variety you may prefer to purchase a case each of six different wines, while others may prefer to take three cases each of two wines they know and trust. It is best to start small and build a collection over time as you discover new wines and purchase new vintages of wines you love.
To select some Creation wines for your cellar, CLICK HERE.
At Creation Wines on the lofty Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 50% of our Pinot Noir block has started veraison.
Veraison is the growth stage of the vine which sees the transition from berry growth to the onset of ripening and is most noticeable in red grapes varieties as they start to change colour from green to red. There is a less noticeable change from green to yellow in white cultivars. This stage signals the start of sugar accumulation in the berry and is an important indicator of the expected harvest period. In the meantime the grapes are constantly monitored and at full veraison all underdeveloped and totally green bunches will be removed to benefit the 2014 vintage.
Veraison – the onset of ripening of the grapes
Up until now the growth and development of the berries have been the result of cell division and cell enlargement. The onset of veraison indicates that anthocyanins are formed in red wine grapes. Anthocyanins contribute little to the flavour of wine, however they belong to a parent class of pigments called flavonoids that are crucial for colour stability as well as the ability to preserve tannin in wine and thus influence the age-worthiness of the final product.
The berries start to soften at veraison and sugar starts building up in the berry. The slow, measured decline in acidity that happens in the cooler climate of the Hemel-en-Aarde means that excellent natural acidity is retained, while in very hot climates the acids decline more rapidly.
Beautiful Green leaf canopies aid ripening process
Veraison does not occur uniformly and it is typically berries and clusters that are most exposed to warmth on the outer extents of the canopy that undergo veraison first. The more shaded berries closer to the trunk of the plant start later. There are a few tools which the viticulturist can use to control the onset of veraison: limited water stress and canopy management can optimize the fruit-to-leaf ratio. More resources are channelled to the berries (which house the seed offspring) and thus take priority. The implication is that the leafier the canopy and the greater the access to water, the longer veraison will be delayed.
So, while we patiently await the perfect moment and conditions to harvest, there is frantic activity happening in every berry and each process is vital to the quality of the wine.
Find out more about the wines at Creation.
By creation, January 15th, 2014, | No Comments »
No doubt about it: Creation is an apt name for a winery perched high up on what is known as the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge.
Not only does our name encapsulate ‘Heaven and Earth’, it alludes to the fact that we are the first to grow wine on our little piece of paradise. Our name furthermore acknowledges the natural beauty that surrounds us, but perhaps more than anything else it reflects our commitment to constant innovation.
But how do we marry our trendsetting ways with our deep commitment to conserving the amazing biodiversity of our farm? This is where our own modern-day interpretation of ‘Karma’ comes into play. Karma is the law of cause and effect and one of the universal laws of Karma, known as the Law of Creation, states:
Life doesn’t just happen, it requires our participation.
We are one with the Universe, both inside and out.
Whatever surrounds us gives us clues to our inner state.
Be yourself, and surround yourself with what you want to have present in your Life.
In observing Karma, as we see it, we closely interact with our environment, appreciating the exceptional winegrowing conditions prevailing on our unique enclave on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and acknowledging the role Mother Earth plays in our success. To confirm this harmonious relationship, Creation is a member of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI). We are committed to conserving our natural heritage by implementing long-term biodiversity as well as sustainability programmes, and that includes the preservation and protection of the indigenous flora as well as the precious wildlife on our farm.
What’s more, we comply with the sustainability guidelines laid down by the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) scheme and all our wines boast the proud ‘green seal’. Environmentally sensitive and responsible wine production has always been close to our heart and the IPW seal offers us the opportunity of communicating our commitment to eco-friendly wine production.
In observing the principles of Karma we also embrace the Kaizen employee trainee programme which means development and evolution through small incremental improvements as well as systematic and permanent solutions to every challenge.
Ever innovative and in the spirit of Karma, Creation has also recently launched our own Wine Academy. This informal training programme is aimed at employees in the hospitality and tourism industries but also reaches out to a wider target market. ”By providing education and training to the next generation of South Africans involved in the tourism and hospitality industries we can effectively grow the wine industry’s sphere of influence and in the process help to create jobs,” says co-owner and marketing director, Carolyn Martin.
What does our ‘Karmic approach’ mean to us and our clients? One of the natural consequences of this philosophy is that energy is focussed on positive action. This may be an internal or external action but it is important that the focus is not on outside competition. “It is bad Karma (and ineffective and inefficient) to expend energy on, for instance, taking business away from others, when positive actions and positive energy attract people so much more easily,” says Carolyn.
Of the 30 000 people that visited Creation in 2013, many were return guests. Each guest that returns is a little bit of good Karma, and judging by the size of the Creation family, each ‘little bit’ adds up to quite a lot!