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Winemaking in your Backyard

Written by Errol Allcock

Like many wine lovers, my interest in all things wine began while as a student at university and studying microbiology was an added catalyst. I joined a wine club which assisted me in gaining exposure to a more diverse range of wines. As time progressed, I soon realized how little I knew and signed up for the wine courses offered by the KWV and, later on, by the Cape Wine Academy. These were wonderful learning opportunities and a great place to meet new friends, especially on the practical courses. Holiday destinations were carefully chosen in wine regions both locally and internationally.

As our combined knowledge and confidence grew, we started visiting key wine regions in France, Italy and Spain … these will always remain as highlights of our travels. Visiting and tasting wines at these Holy Grails of world wines was very special. On one of these trips, I met Graham De Villiers, the new owner of Mont Rochelle Vineyards in Franschhoek. He sensed my interest in wine, and by invitation, I spent three harvests working in the Mont Rochelle cellar doing odd jobs but learning all the time as well as making lifetime friends.

We were fortunate to have a wine cellar at home which provided more than a place to store wine, it was often somewhere to entertain friends and, of course, solve the problems of the world. Wine cellars are interesting places where one can develop a special relationship with the wine styles that you prefer.

We undertook a major renovation of our home in Somerset West in 2016, and it was then that the idea of developing a micro vineyard on the property was conceived. We had roughly ¼ of an acre to develop, and this was large enough to plant 110 vines which, by my calculation, could yield sufficient grapes to make a standard barrel of wine. The vineyard development took just over two years and included a soil analysis and preparation, water availability, trellising design and cultivar selection. Our “stokkies” were planted in September 2018, and then the work of training the vines began. We decided on a Shiraz scion grafted onto a robust 101-14 root stock. Each year the vines became stronger as they developed, and we had our first full harvest last year (2022). Following nine months in oak, this vintage was bottled in late January 2023. I am very pleased with the final product which shows typical varietal characteristics, a good colour and soft tannins. No resting for now though; the 2023 harvest will be ready for picking at the end of February. Thanks to my family and friends for their continued support and encouragement.

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