Soils and block layout
In the case of undeveloped areas, soil analyses are conducted to quantify soil variations – in accordance with the South African system.
In the case of existing vineyard areas, GIS (Geographic Information System) technology, NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) and/or Infrared Remote Sensing are predominantly used to determine vigour differences in vineyards. This forms the basis of block layout and rootstock selection. In new vineyards, soil variations dictate block layout, the main purpose being to obtain the least possible variation in a vineyard block.
Plant width and trellis systems
The ideal is to obtain a balance between growth above and under the ground, while the canopy is accommodated by the selected trellis system using only limited canopy control actions. This philosophy is underlined by the producers’ selected trellis systems. The desired norm in plant widths ranges from 2,4m to – 1,2m. Certain producers claim the contrary, however. In their case (narrow plantings) vineyard manipulations were the order of the day and vineyards are carefully manicured. In many instances this approach defies logical explanation, being an indiscriminate attempt to copy the French cultivation pholosophy.
Vertical shoot positioning is used exclusively for canopy control in premium vineyards.
Vineyard management and canopy control practices
The quality of pruning and canopy control practices is outstanding – everyone involved in vineyard actions knows the reasons for specific actions, due to the high level of training and management. Everyone in the production chain is aware of the end goal and realises the importance of actions from the vineyard to the bottle.
The latest technology is used for irrigation scheduling, for example, to obtain a better comprehension of situations and take focussed management decisions. If necessary, specialists are asked to assist with vineyard management practices.
Ripeness monitoring and pressing of grapes
Meticulous monitoring of ripeness, sampling as well as foliage and grape evaluations are undertaken to determine optimum ripeness.
Where variations occur within blocks, these areas (as determined with GIS or Infra Red Sensing) are monitored separately and pressed and handled individually. Grapes are pressed mainly in crates or half ton containers.
Especially noticeable was the involvement of the viticulturist / producers in the ultimate wine goal, as well as the knowledge and involvement of the winemaker in vineyard and grape matters. The involvement of the wine producer and winemaker in the entire value chain deserves mention.
In general grapes are specially cultivated to produce small quantities of ultra-premium wine. In the cellar, too, grapes from a particular block are handled on an individual level (small tanks). Hand sorting, good facilities, small tanks and the best barrels are the order of the day. In most instances a dedicated winemaker focusses exclusively on the vinification of an ultra-premium wine.
Vineyard block and wine history record keeping is taken very seriously.
The entire approach vis – vis capital expenditure in the vineyards and cellar, labour and management is not negotiable. If a locality looks promising, the organisation does everything in its power to ensure that the grapes end up in the bottle.
However, marketing is one of the most important foundations of the concept of ultra-premium wines. Relatively small quantities are sold at exorbitant prices, which in actual fact means selling the concept of exclusivity at a high price.
In a country such as the USA with its strong economy, the cultivation and selling of ultra-premium wines is therefore a lucrative business.
To ensure success, the quality of the wine must nevertheless also be outstanding