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The 'Glamorous' side of Winemaking

Date: Fri, May 29, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Angie Tieling



It's raining, and pretty cold in Stellenbosch today. You can feel the onset of winter creeping up on things. The leaves on the vines are all quickly changing from green to gold and red, following which they will drop off and leave the vines naked and ready for pruning later in the season.

It occurs that this is the least 'glamorous' time of the year to be in the wine business. Glamorous is of course a relative term- most people toiling at the coalface of the wine industry would suggest in no uncertain terms that such a descriptor rarely applies to what we do.

But the days post vintage where the energies invested in processing grapes and making edgy choices about harvesting dates are in the past would certainly qualify as being at the more mundane end of the excitement scale. Nonetheless, they are extremely important, critical in fact from a quality point of view. It is a time where wines that have finished ferment are transferred into barrel, where tanks are being cleaned out, barrels topped up- the menial, nuts and bolts, behind the scenes activities that are integral to every quality wine producer's ability to bring their brand to market.

And someone has to do the job. This means long hours and repetitive work, but attention to detail is paramount. Mind's need to be in the right place. At this moment too, our assistant winemaker Wikus is laid up in hospital after a 4.5 hour operation on his leg. Wikus would normally be in charge of all these duties, and overseeing things to make sure that they are performed and finished in the right way. He's not here, but fortunately for us we have some great help in Sylvester and Ntando to take up the slack.

Sylvester has been with us for a couple of years now, a young guy who is developing into an important part of the Dombeya team. He's going to be doing some study later this year to sharpen his skills and wine knowledge, and Ntando is our 2009 Dombeya Scholarship recipient who is back from a work and study trip in Australia and is spending some time with us whilst she looks around for further opportunities in the wine industry.

Carrying buckets of wine around, climbing ladders, and moving hoses- not quite what the glossy magazines would have you believe winemaking is all about!

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A little Fireworks!

Date: Fri, May 22, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Angie Tieling



OK, so it's not about wine persae, but it is one of the more impressive looking photo's we've ever seen and as such deserving of a place in the Dombeya blog.

These shots were taken on Thursday morning in Cape Town, when the mother of all electrical storms came through and gave the city a good shaking.

Needless to say, we hope that no-one was on the receiving end.

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A little Fireworks!

Date: Fri, May 22, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Angie Tieling



OK, so it's not about wine persae, but it is one of the more impressive looking photo's we've ever seen and as such deserving of a place in the Dombeya blog.

These shots were taken on Thursday morning in Cape Town, when the mother of all electrical storms came through and gave the city a good shaking.

Needless to say, we hope that no-one was on the receiving end.

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Hades Vineyard

Date: Thu, May 21, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Wikus Pretorius



Now, we haven't quite decided on the name as yet, but naming this site after the ancient Greek name for hell would be entirely appropriate.

We had to remove over 100 tonnes of rock and stone in order to be able to plant anything! It's just a rugged, gnarly, single vineyard that only a mother could love, but perfectly suited to growing premium Syrah grapes. We're very excited about the potential of this vineyard site. Now we just need to be patient.

The slope faces North, with the soils classic tukulu underneath a layer of heavy stone (sandstone and granite) fraction. Planting Syrah in tough soils seems to bring out the best in the grape, restricting its yield and in our case; it seems to induce a fragrant 'rose petal' like perfume in the resultant wine.

This vineyard was only planted in late 2008, so it probably won't produce any fruit until 2011, and from then we'll assess the quality on a year to year basis to see if it measures up to our lofty expectations. But anyway, we thought it would be interesting to show you what qualifies as 'great' vineyard land- needless to say this sits someway outside of what many people would expect.

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Hades Vineyard

Date: Thu, May 21, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Wikus Pretorius



Now, we haven't quite decided on the name as yet, but naming this site after the ancient Greek name for hell would be entirely appropriate.

We had to remove over 100 tonnes of rock and stone in order to be able to plant anything! It's just a rugged, gnarly, single vineyard that only a mother could love, but perfectly suited to growing premium Syrah grapes. We're very excited about the potential of this vineyard site. Now we just need to be patient.

The slope faces North, with the soils classic tukulu underneath a layer of heavy stone (sandstone and granite) fraction. Planting Syrah in tough soils seems to bring out the best in the grape, restricting its yield and in our case; it seems to induce a fragrant 'rose petal' like perfume in the resultant wine.

This vineyard was only planted in late 2008, so it probably won't produce any fruit until 2011, and from then we'll assess the quality on a year to year basis to see if it measures up to our lofty expectations. But anyway, we thought it would be interesting to show you what qualifies as 'great' vineyard land- needless to say this sits someway outside of what many people would expect.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine Spectator Ratings

Date: Tue, May 19, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Angie Tieling



Wine Spectator has released another edition of their widely read publication (said to be over a million copies a month) and we were chuffed again to see that Dombeya Wines were rated, with very positive comments.

James Molesworth is the reviewer who covers South Africa, and had this to say about the two wines submitted,


Dombeya Chardonnay 2006
88 points


Nicely focussed, with good pear, hazelnut and candied citrus peel notes backed by a fresh finish. Drink now.



Dombeya Samara 2005
89 points


Quite ripe, with fig, currant paste, and espresso notes, held in check by a layer of bittersweet cocoa. Tobacco and warm tar notes fill out the slightly aggressive finish. Drink now through 2010.

Dombeya Wines are imported and distributed in the U.S. through GOS International in Florida.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine Spectator Ratings

Date: Tue, May 19, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Angie Tieling



Wine Spectator has released another edition of their widely read publication (said to be over a million copies a month) and we were chuffed again to see that Dombeya Wines were rated, with very positive comments.

James Molesworth is the reviewer who covers South Africa, and had this to say about the two wines submitted,


Dombeya Chardonnay 2006
88 points


Nicely focussed, with good pear, hazelnut and candied citrus peel notes backed by a fresh finish. Drink now.



Dombeya Samara 2005
89 points


Quite ripe, with fig, currant paste, and espresso notes, held in check by a layer of bittersweet cocoa. Tobacco and warm tar notes fill out the slightly aggressive finish. Drink now through 2010.

Dombeya Wines are imported and distributed in the U.S. through GOS International in Florida.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Spit or Swallow?

Date: Tue, May 12, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Angie Tieling



A new website has popped up in South Africa, www.spitorswallow.com . Make what you will of the title, but it is seeing a lot of traffic and creating a fair amount of comment. The site allows people to rate their cellar door experience when visiting South African wineries. It has a clean, bright look and is easy to navigate, an excellent example of how to lay out a website and make it attractive to visitors.

We'd also hazard a guess that the numerical ratings are a little easy to manipulate to the advantage (or disadvantage) of producers who have a vested interest in seeing their winery high on the ranking list. Still, nothing is perfect and the fact that this service actually exists is a bonus for South African wine producers who are trying to publicise their brand, and what they offer at cellar door. How the owners of the site find a way to monetise the website will be an interesting part of its evolution.

Anyway, we're on there, along with a cracking review from a couple of young ladies who popped by to try some wine. We're not sure whether they like the wine of our winemaker Wikus the most, but you make your own mind up!

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Spit or Swallow?

Date: Tue, May 12, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Angie Tieling



A new website has popped up in South Africa, www.spitorswallow.com . Make what you will of the title, but it is seeing a lot of traffic and creating a fair amount of comment. The site allows people to rate their cellar door experience when visiting South African wineries. It has a clean, bright look and is easy to navigate, an excellent example of how to lay out a website and make it attractive to visitors.

We'd also hazard a guess that the numerical ratings are a little easy to manipulate to the advantage (or disadvantage) of producers who have a vested interest in seeing their winery high on the ranking list. Still, nothing is perfect and the fact that this service actually exists is a bonus for South African wine producers who are trying to publicise their brand, and what they offer at cellar door. How the owners of the site find a way to monetise the website will be an interesting part of its evolution.

Anyway, we're on there, along with a cracking review from a couple of young ladies who popped by to try some wine. We're not sure whether they like the wine of our winemaker Wikus the most, but you make your own mind up!

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine Judging and other Travails

Date: Thu, May 7, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Angie Tieling



Things have been a bit quiet here, what with Rianie away in the U.S. and vintage coming to a close. No sooner did Rianie return and she was back at the coalface, judging in the Trophy Wine Show at Paarl this week. We're waiting to hear what it is like trying to assess wine with serious jet lag!

With regard to the Trophy Wine Show, it's an interesting line-up of foreign judges this year. Brian Croser, of Petaluma and Tappanappa fame is in town, along with Julia Harding MW ( Jancis Robinson's offsider) as well as Michel Bettane, the high profile French journalist. There is also a strong list of South African's such as Gary Jordan, Carrie Adams and Christian Eedes. A wine show is only as good as the quality of judges who adjudicate, and it is for this reason the Trophy Show holds the most credibility of any wine show in South Africa. We're not sure if a good showing helps to sell more wine or not but it certainly gives you a good understanding of where you are at with regard to wine style. That's assuming of course that the opinion of the good men and women in lab coats is of value to you!

Dombeya has entered a few wines, as we usually do. There are no price categories in this competition, so we are up against wines that tend to be many multiples higher in terms of price but that hasn't stopped us performing very credibly in past years. 'Twill be interesting to see what the results throw up in 2009.

Other than that, we have Ntando (our scholarship student) back with us for a couple of months after returning from Australia. Check out the blog (The Dombeya Scholarship) for the weekly reports that Ntando posted whilst she was down under. Looking forward to seeing her and catching up on all her experiences.

As always, if you are out this way and want to drop by and taste some wine, just let us know. We love having visitors and everyone is welcome. Apparently, we are Ok at hosts too, check out this review!
All the best, the Dombeya crew.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine Judging and other Travails

Date: Thu, May 7, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Angie Tieling



Things have been a bit quiet here, what with Rianie away in the U.S. and vintage coming to a close. No sooner did Rianie return and she was back at the coalface, judging in the Trophy Wine Show at Paarl this week. We're waiting to hear what it is like trying to assess wine with serious jet lag!

With regard to the Trophy Wine Show, it's an interesting line-up of foreign judges this year. Brian Croser, of Petaluma and Tappanappa fame is in town, along with Julia Harding MW ( Jancis Robinson's offsider) as well as Michel Bettane, the high profile French journalist. There is also a strong list of South African's such as Gary Jordan, Carrie Adams and Christian Eedes. A wine show is only as good as the quality of judges who adjudicate, and it is for this reason the Trophy Show holds the most credibility of any wine show in South Africa. We're not sure if a good showing helps to sell more wine or not but it certainly gives you a good understanding of where you are at with regard to wine style. That's assuming of course that the opinion of the good men and women in lab coats is of value to you!

Dombeya has entered a few wines, as we usually do. There are no price categories in this competition, so we are up against wines that tend to be many multiples higher in terms of price but that hasn't stopped us performing very credibly in past years. 'Twill be interesting to see what the results throw up in 2009.

Other than that, we have Ntando (our scholarship student) back with us for a couple of months after returning from Australia. Check out the blog (The Dombeya Scholarship) for the weekly reports that Ntando posted whilst she was down under. Looking forward to seeing her and catching up on all her experiences.

As always, if you are out this way and want to drop by and taste some wine, just let us know. We love having visitors and everyone is welcome. Apparently, we are Ok at hosts too, check out this review!
All the best, the Dombeya crew.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Biodynamics the Microscope

Date: Tue, Apr 28, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Wikus Pretorius



As a producer determined to find every way possible of maximising quality, you need to be aware of emerging trends. You also need to stay up to date with wine and viticulture research, and business 'best practice' systems. If you're not moving forward, then you are actually going backwards. It's that sort of game.

If you are in the wine game, the only way you wouldn't have heard about bio-dynamics is if you have been buried under a rock for the past few years. An agricultural system developed by Austrian Rudolph Steiner in the 1920's, bio-dynamics is essentially (although this definition would probably be hotly debated) a non-interventionist approach to farming, deeply rooted in organic philosophy but with certain spiritual leanings.

Bio-dynamics is being adopted at a rate of knots by wine producers all across the globe. For most, it is a part of their quest for quality and authenticity. For some, the attraction of a unique selling proposition that resonates with high end consumers and key critics alike makes perfect sense, and is too hard to resist.

Anecdotally, there is some fairly compelling evidence in the marketplace that hitching your wagon to bio -dynamics is a winner when it comes to sales. And so, it seems reasonable to at least learn enough about it in order to work out whether there is something in it for you.

Of course, such blatant commercial opportunism never occured to guys like Ron Laughton of Jasper Hill and Nicholas Joly of Coulee de Serrant. Both producers were at the forefront of bio-dynamics, true believers before most of the wine world even knew how to spell it. No doubt they would be rolling their eyes at the current feeding frenzy taking place.

We're gradually moving towards a system of minimal intervention in the vineyards. All of our winery and vineyard waste is recycled, composted, and put back into the vineyards in order to add greater organic matter to the soils. Healthier soils will eventually result in healthier vines, and better quality grapes, with vineyards that are better able to withstand pest and disease pressures. We're also removing pesticides from the spraying program by instead utilising natural predator systems. This means introducing bugs that eat some of the less welcome insects in the vineyard, in the process allowing the natural eco-system to exist and govern itself.

The difference between this type of organic approach (this is not to suggest that we are organic yet) and bio-dynamics lies in a deeper commitment to a philosophical stance that involves an observation of moon cycles and the application of certain 'treatments' in the vineyard. To find out more about this we took the modern route and googled it, in the process finding this discussion which typifies the passionate divide between those who are committed to the practice and the polemicists. But with regard to the vineyard and compost preparations, which are numbered, the following provides an understanding of the products involved, and their use (taken from the link above),

* # 506, 35 pounds of dried dandelion blossoms in one (1) bovine mesentery will make about 5 gallons or 3,000 units of preparation: enough for 45,000 tons of compost on 15,000 acres.

* # 503, the chamomile in one (1) cow's intestine will produce about 7 or 8 gallons or 4,800 units of preparation: enough for 72,000 tons or more of compost on about 25,000 acres.

* # 505, the oak bark in one (1) cow's skull will produce around a quart+, or 200 units of preparation: enough for 3,000 tons of compost on 1,000 acres.

* # 502, the yarrow flowers in one (1) stag's bladder will produce about 100 units of preparation: enough for 1,500 tons of compost on 500 acres.

As you can see, the by-products of cows are a central part of the system, with the skull, bladder and horns all used as vessels to contain preparations that are added to both soil and compost.

With regard to pest issues, the following remedy is suggested for getting rid of field mice: take a mouse, skin it, burn it and then spread its ashes on your field when "Venus is in the sign of the Scorpion."

There are numerous other preparations involved, but the ones listed are enough to establish the fact that this is a particularly alternative approach to agriculture. How you view the need for such additions is likely to depend upon your open-ness to experimentation and belief set.

To debate the veracity of bio-dynamics is pointless. It's a bit like religion. If you believe, then no proof is necessary. So, we won't bother to do so here other than to say that we'll stick with continuing to work towards building a sustainable viticultural model here, with a goal towards eventually maintaining a system that is in balance with the environment.

In the meantime, we'll continue to learn an observe and see where all this leads.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

"Biodynamics under the Microscope"

Date: Tue, Apr 28, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Wikus Pretorius



As a producer determined to find every way possible of maximising quality, you need to be aware of emerging trends. You also need to stay up to date with wine and viticulture research, and business 'best practice' systems. If you're not moving forward, then you are actually going backwards. It's that sort of game.

If you are in the wine game, the only way you wouldn't have heard about bio-dynamics is if you have been buried under a rock for the past few years. An agricultural system developed by Austrian Rudolph Steiner in the 1920's, bio-dynamics is essentially (although this definition would probably be hotly debated) a non-interventionist approach to farming, deeply rooted in organic philosophy but with certain spiritual leanings.

Bio-dynamics is being adopted at a rate of knots by wine producers all across the globe. For most, it is a part of their quest for quality and authenticity. For some, the attraction of a unique selling proposition that resonates with high end consumers and key critics alike makes perfect sense, and is too hard to resist.

Anecdotally, there is some fairly compelling evidence in the marketplace that hitching your wagon to bio -dynamics is a winner when it comes to sales. And so, it seems reasonable to at least learn enough about it in order to work out whether there is something in it for you.

Of course, such blatant commercial opportunism never occured to guys like Ron Laughton of Jasper Hill and Nicholas Joly of Coulee de Serrant. Both producers were at the forefront of bio-dynamics, true believers before most of the wine world even knew how to spell it. No doubt they would be rolling their eyes at the current feeding frenzy taking place.

We're gradually moving towards a system of minimal intervention in the vineyards. All of our winery and vineyard waste is recycled, composted, and put back into the vineyards in order to add greater organic matter to the soils. Healthier soils will eventually result in healthier vines, and better quality grapes, with vineyards that are better able to withstand pest and disease pressures. We're also removing pesticides from the spraying program by instead utilising natural predator systems. This means introducing bugs that eat some of the less welcome insects in the vineyard, in the process allowing the natural eco-system to exist and govern itself.

The difference between this type of organic approach (this is not to suggest that we are organic yet) and bio-dynamics lies in a deeper commitment to a philosophical stance that involves an observation of moon cycles and the application of certain 'treatments' in the vineyard. To find out more about this we took the modern route and googled it, in the process finding this discussion which typifies the passionate divide between those who are committed to the practice and the polemicists. But with regard to the vineyard and compost preparations, which are numbered, the following provides an understanding of the products involved, and their use (taken from the link above),

* # 506, 35 pounds of dried dandelion blossoms in one (1) bovine mesentery will make about 5 gallons or 3,000 units of preparation: enough for 45,000 tons of compost on 15,000 acres.

* # 503, the chamomile in one (1) cow's intestine will produce about 7 or 8 gallons or 4,800 units of preparation: enough for 72,000 tons or more of compost on about 25,000 acres.

* # 505, the oak bark in one (1) cow's skull will produce around a quart+, or 200 units of preparation: enough for 3,000 tons of compost on 1,000 acres.

* # 502, the yarrow flowers in one (1) stag's bladder will produce about 100 units of preparation: enough for 1,500 tons of compost on 500 acres.

As you can see, the by-products of cows are a central part of the system, with the skull, bladder and horns all used as vessels to contain preparations that are added to both soil and compost.

With regard to pest issues, the following remedy is suggested for getting rid of field mice: take a mouse, skin it, burn it and then spread its ashes on your field when "Venus is in the sign of the Scorpion."

There are numerous other preparations involved, but the ones listed are enough to establish the fact that this is a particularly alternative approach to agriculture. How you view the need for such additions is likely to depend upon your open-ness to experimentation and belief set.

To debate the veracity of bio-dynamics is pointless. It's a bit like religion. If you believe, then no proof is necessary. So, we won't bother to do so here other than to say that we'll stick with continuing to work towards building a sustainable viticultural model here, with a goal towards eventually maintaining a system that is in balance with the environment.

In the meantime, we'll continue to learn an observe and see where all this leads.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Dombeya Scholarship 2009- Ntando in Australia, Part 7

Date: Tue, Apr 14, 2009 Winery Blogs

by Ntando Buthelezi



I have sadly reached the end of my journey in Australia. And I am closing on the high note as I am a lover of red wines and sparkling wines, and I am in the Barossa Valley.

My first day, I spent some time with Louisa Rose of Yalumba. Not only is Yalumba the oldest family owned winery in Australia but they are also the pioneers of Viognier in Australia, with the first plantings in 1980. In fact, Yalumba has the largest number of commercial vines of Viognier in the Southern Hemisphere. Louisa has worked extensively with the variety which has gained her recognition in the wine industry and she is considered an industry leader.

What an amazing wine maker. She is so confident in what she does. I had to pinch myself to be in her presence. She oversees about ten wine makers in different states where Yalumba produces wine. How she does it, and still manages to be so humble and willing to share her experiences is amazing. She's not only a forward thinker but very innovative. She taught me that it's good to share ideas within the wine industry, that way you grow as winemakers.

I thank her for her time and sharing of ideas and giving me insight on what makes Yalumba such a dynamic company. Her achievements reflect the teacher that she is, she was named as Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine's "Wine Maker of the Year" in October 2008. She also judges Australian and International wine shows.

The rest of the week was spent at Kaesler Wines. Kaesler has about 92 hectares of vineyards with the following cultivars; Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro, Semillon, Riesling, Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon.

They pick fruit according to soil type rather than block location. Most of the fruit is hand picked, off dry land blocks with sandy clay loam soils. Clay as subsoil helps retain the moisture in hot and dry weather conditions which are typical of the Barossa Valley.

The vintage for 2009 started the first week of February with their reds (Shiraz). At first I thought how strange until I realized it's normal to have 40 C temperatures and with the heat wave earlier this year temperatures went up to 47 C.

This week I felt as if Reid Bosward (winemaker & general manager) was psychic in terms of how much I am interested in palate training and blending. My other secret interest is the input of viticulturist during the wine making process.

I had so much fun. We had a lot of wine blending decisions to make this week. It was interesting how this evolves and how Nigel van der Zande (viticulturist) had so much input into the discussion and decision making. The whole team would get together at the winery, taste the different barrel samples, and Stephen Dew (winemaker) tells me the reason he values Nigel's input is that he is always a year behind him as he prepares the fruit the year before.

Stephen taught me that the key to a balanced wine is between the fruit, acid, alcohol, oak and tannin;you need to ensure that consumer desires are fulfilled as it's crucial in selling your wines. Kaesler's style of wine making and management has showed me that not only are they making well balanced wines but team work goes a long way in fulfilling that outcome!

Kaesler is not only conventional with their wine making but also with their marketing. If ever you spot wines named WOMS (weapon of mass seduction), Old Bastard and Secret Shit - Do Not Touch, pick up that bottle, it's definitely Kaesler at their best!

Producing wines under such hot conditions and still managing to make wines with intensity of flavour and pure balance, with high alcohol of at least 15 % is not easy. Kaesler makes it look like it's a walk in the park. Go on line, buy their wines you will see what I mean. OUT OF THIS WORLD!

Thank you so much to the Kaesler team for teaching me and giving me a new school of thoughts it was entirely refreshing and encouraging. A big thank you to Bindy Bosward (Reid's wife) the poor lady fed me dinner (great food) the whole week and invited me into her home, hosting me throughout the week.

P.S. Australia Rocks!! Voyager Estate, AWRI, University of Adelaide and Kaesler Estate even better!

Read Full Wine Blog Post


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