Welcome! It is the official beginning of spring (although the chilly weather is not playing along), and what better time to get going on our long overdue blog. The vineyards are starting to come to life, with the first budding of new leaves, slowly transforming the rows from barren brown to green. I thought it would be appropriate to start things off with a bit of an update from the vineyards.

Petite Sirah – The new kid on the block
I spent the morning with Thys Greeff, Fairview’s viticulturalist, whose team was busy planting a new block of vineyard on the upper slopes of the farm. Fairview has had an extensive replanting program in place over the last 18 months with an innovative selection of grapes being planted. On this day they were planting the little-known red grape Petite Sirah. This varietal originally came about when pollen from a Syrah vines pollinated flowers on a Peloursin vine and was ‘discovered’ in 1880 by Frenchman François Durif. As a result it is also known as Durif. Petite Sirah is a variety that Fairview’s owner Charles Back, believes in very strongly. At the moment, the most significant international plantings of Petite Sirah are in California and Australia.
These vines were being planted at an awesome site, high up on the south western slopes of the Paarl Mountain. It was a beautiful morning and the views of the valley are spectacular – a nice change from the office! The soils at this site are predominantly shale with clay subsoils. Planting a vineyard is a very time and labour intensive process , with a team of fifty people needing to work over 3 or 4 days to plant these couple of hectares. If you consider that we won’t really get any quality grapes from the vines for at least four years, you can understand that a lot of thought and planning needs to go into planting a vineyard. It can be a very expensive mistake if the viticulturalist doesn’t select the suitable variety to make the most of the conditions in that vineyard! We have already produced wine from some Petite Sirah from vines that we planted in Paarl and at our vineyards in the Swartland a few years ago and the wines are looking really exciting. We will be releasing the first ever Petite Sirah in South Africa in the coming weeks.

Terraced planting
While up in the vineyards Thys also showed me a new terraced vineyard that is being planted with Grenache vines as well as the white varietal Roussanne. The planting method that he is using is known as ‘vine to post’ (or ‘stok by paal’ in Afrikaans). The vine is planted next to a pole and as it grows it is trained against the post, which ensures that the vine grows straight upwards. The fruit bearing part of the vine is cultivated like a bush vine, with the bunches growing in a central fruit zone.  The post is also used to support the canopy of the vine, which is gently raised and tied up around the post, allowing sunlight to enter the canopy. This method results in a bush vine type vineyard (as opposed to a trellised vine) that is raised higher off the ground. This allows the wind to move more freely underneath and around the vine (helping to keep it cool during the summer) while creating the concentrated flavours characteristic of bushvines. This is the first Roussanne that we have planted on the Fairview farm and we would hope to be able to produce a wine from these grapes in 2012.

On the wine side, it is that time of year when the winemakers have started to taste through the 2008 red wines to see their process so far. It is an interesting time and should give us a good indication of the potential for the vintage – I will keep you up to date. Cheers.

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