September 15, 2010 by Victoria Rowe No Comment
Written by Lisa Greyling
If you drive along many of the gravel roads on the outskirts of Plettenberg bay, you will notice that the very nature of the landscape is shifting. In the past, most plots in Bitou’s rural areas were characterised by large open stands of natural veld. Now you are also likely to find vineyards.
It seems that the Garden Route boasts yet another feather in its proverbial cap after a team of experts from the Western Cape wine industry (on application by Bramon Wines) declared Plettenberg Bay a “wine of origin” area. This means that the area has been officially gazetted and the wine industry can now be developed and marketed accordingly. This is due, in part, to the resounding success of one passionate and committed individual:
In 2000, Peter Thorpe converted 5 hectares of his rural Crags property into vineyards and, just a few years later, went on to produce an award winning Sauvignon Blanc Cap Classique. It is the country’s first and only ‘methode cap classique’ sparkling wine made solely from the Sauvignon Blanc cultivar. It has been described as “a dry, delicate Sauvignon Blanc with green grass, asparagus and granny smith apple aromas and a zesty, lingering lime finish.” The success of Peter’s Bramon Wine Estate has prompted other farm owners to follow suit, and now large tracts of our local land are dedicated to the noble grape and its incredible bounty. In fact, the number of hectares planted with vineyards is more than doubling each year.
Many seem surprised to discover that the area is perfectly suitable and the conditions favourable for the production of white wines, with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and pinot noir the cultivars most commonly planted. The average summer temperature of 22C allows for a longer growing season, and harvesting is done at least three weeks later than in the vineyards of our more westerly regions. This gives the grapes more time to evolve and a more intense flavour.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert to have your very own vineyard – thanks to the serves and expertise of Kleinberg Estate and Bramon Viticulture Supplies (BVS), the agricultural contractors at the forefront of this burgeoning local wine industry.
Alexander Behr and Peter Thorpe and their teams offer a turnkey service to anyone wishing to convert their land to vineyards. BVS consults, giving advice on each component of a vineyard’s development, from determining the suitability of property to soil analysis and general viticulture practices. The Kleinberg Estates team implements soil preparation, irrigation systems, planting of vine support structures and the actual planting of the vines themselves. All vines, hardware and viticulture supplies are supplied by BVS. Management services are available once the vineyard has been planted, meaning in effect that vineyard owners need not actually involve themselves in the day to day maintenance of the vines and simply reap the sweet benefits of the harvest. This comprehensive service makes viticulture and accessible option for landowners, and although planting a vineyard is an expensive undertaking, this actually increases the value of a property in excess of the initial investment.
The future certainly looks bright for Garden Route wine makers, who seem to have a collective vision of what it may bring. Taking into account the area’s suitability for white grape production and the initial success of the Bramon Wine Estate’s bubbly, many fledgling wine makers have their sights on the bubbly market.
Bramon Wine Estate is in the process of building their own winery (expected to be completed before their nest harvest), which will allow them to not only process their own grapes, but also those of other growers in the region. Other farms are expected to follow suit in the near future. To ensure sustained excellence in the region, wines will be required to undergo a review by an independent tasting board before being accorded Plettenberg Bay ‘wine of origin’ status. In order to streamline the local industry, the Plettenberg Bay Wine Growers Association has been established and there are also plans for a wine festival to be held in September 2010. The vision is that, once a few local ‘cap classique’ products area available on the market, a bubbly route can be established, which will be the only one of its kind in the country.
This potential ‘bubbly route’ will serve as a significant tourism draw card for the area. And let’s face it, there are fewer things better in life than whiling away a summer’s day with great friends and a chilled bottle of good bubbly. This is good news for us locals as well! Cheers!!!!
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I’m one half of the team that runs the day to day activities at African Array Lodge. This blog is an effort to keep you updated on what’s happening here at African Array & Plettenberg Bay.