Words, wise or otherwise, about wine

Amares – Organically Grown Wines

Surrounded by the Rustenberg estate and overlooking the Simonsberg mountain, Amares is a small farm of only 5 hectares.  The name was the inspiration of the original owner in 1920, Hugh Cooper, who was an expert honey maker and named the farm after the mountain range near Athens where the honey produced is of legendary quality.

View across the vineyard to the Simonsberg Mountain

The current owners are a partnership of Sally Ann Noel, Renier Pienaar and the winemaker, Neville Koudstaal. They are united in their belief that wine should be as natural as possible and to that end farm their vineyard organically.  A covercrop of Korog (a wheat and rye hybrid) is sown between the rows mostly as food for the Guinea Fowl it would seem, but some of it does grow!  An organic fertiliser is used for both the vines and the cover crop.

Korog Cover Crop

650 Bales of straw are put on the vineyard beds to help with weed-control and moisture retention. This straw gently breaks down during the season and helps improve the soil structure.

The Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard is situated on Hymettus farm and was planted in 2001 to a variety of Cabernet clones on rootstock 101-14 Millardet et de Grasset.

The Syrah grapes are sourced from two select vineyards. Amares is able to obtain premium quality grapes from their neighbours, Rustenberg Wines.  The second batch of Syrah grapes are sourced from a farm in the Banhoek valley which the winemaker, Neville Koudstaal established himself.  Both of the sites are well suited to world-class Syrah and impart bold fruitiness, spiciness and subtlety.

Vinfication is very similar for both wines

  • Harvesting: Grapes are harvested into small containers, early in the morning, at optimum phenolic ripeness and brought immediately to the cellar to remain cool. No more than two tonnes of grapes are processed per day.
  • Hand Sorting: The grapes are hand sorted by a team of fanatics to ensure that only quality bunches are crushed. All matter other than grapes (mogs) are removed and spiders are rescued and returned to the vineyard.
  • Crushing: The grape bunches are agonizingly slowly put through a crusher-destemmer perched on top of a fermentation bin. Stalks are removed to the compost and the berries lightly crushed by rubber rollers to break their skins.
  • Fermentation: The must (crushed grape berries and juice) is allowed to settle for a day before yeast is added to start fermentation in the one ton stainless steel fermenters. Punch down is manually performed three times a day with daily checks on temperature.
  • Pressing: When fermentation is complete, the must is left for a few days on the skins to impart further flavour. The must is then gravity fed into the press. The press is a hand operated wooden press which allows a fine degree of control over the pressing operation. Free-run juice is collected separately from pressed juice and pressing stops well before undesirable tannin flavours can be imparted to the wine. The pressed must cake is removed to the compost.

    Hand operated press

  • Barrel Fermentation: After pressing the wine is decanted into French oak barrels. The wine is encouraged to undergo a second (malolactic) fermentation in the barrels to impart further smoothness and flavours to the wine.
  • Barrel Ageing: After malolactic fermentation is completed the wine stays in the barrels for approximately 18 months to age. During this time the oak contact imparts desirable tannin and vanilla flavours to the wine.

    Maturing in French oak

  • Bottling: When the wine is ready, bottling is performed at the winery. The bottled wine will rest in the cellar for a few months, labelled, packaged and finally shipped for consumption.

Tasting notes

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007- The nose hints at dark-skinned berries, a promise of mint and other herbal aromas. The wine has a broad palate with an attractive mouth feel from ripe grapes backed by mature tannins and a dry cedar finish.

Awarded best Cabernet Sauvignon in Stellenbosch and Simonsberg by the South Africa Terroir Wine Awards. A deserving title for this elegant wine that is gaining in complexity with time in the bottle.

Syrah 2007 – Turkish Delight, clove and juniper on the nose followed by fresh red stone fruits with strong white pepper and light spice to finish. The careful use of French oak creates gamey, smoked meat hints. A bold but elegant slow-food wine.

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