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Details for Swartland, Limited Release, Mourvèdre

CountrySouth Africa
Mourvèdre / Monastrell / Mataro
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Swartland Winery
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The Swartland begins some 50 kilometres north of Cape Town and is bounded by the towns of Malmesbury in the south, Darling in the west, Piketberg in the north, and Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel in the east.  The Dutch pioneer Jan van Riebeek christened this gently undulating country “Het Zwarte Land” (the Black Land) after the appearance of the native Renosterbos (“Rhinoceros Bush”) when viewed from a distance after winter rains.
The area is noted for its fertile soil and relatively generous rainfall, making it the breadbasket for Cape Town.  Vines can be dry-farmed here, without the irrigation commonly practised elsewhere in South Africa, though in order to do so thay must be planted far apart.  Consequently trellising systems are rare and most vineyards are planted with small bush vines.
At the beginning of this century, enticed by those old bush vines, a few of South Africa’s most noted winemakers set up shop in a region that traditionally had only produced cheap jug wine.  The results were startling, and today Swartland is perhaps the country’s most fashionable wine region, with a particular focus on organic and “natural’ wine.  Red Rhône varieties do particularly well here, as does South Africa’s signature Chenin Blanc.

Swartland Winery

Founded as a growers’ cooperative in 1948 by 15 farmers, Swartland Winery is one of  the oldest producers in the newly-fashionable Swartland region.  It’s also by far the largest, with 64 growers farming 3,600 hectares of vines.  80% of those are small bush vines, with average yields at a low 6 tonnes per hectare.
For decades it produced cheap and cheerful quaffing wines, but the establishment of ambitious boutique wineries in the region in the early noughties prompted a change of direction.  In 2006 it became a public company, hired some big name talent both in winemaking and marketing, and embarked upon an export drive.
New ranges of top-tier wines were introduced.  The Limited Release range comprises small batches from single vineyards, often just a barrel or two.  Above that, the Bush Vine range has rather larger volumes of flagship wines, aimed mainly at export markets.  At fewer than two thousand cases each, these are still small-volume for a winery that produces two million cases each year.

about this wine About this wine

This wine comes from a single vineyard of 30-year-old Mourvèdre bush vines planted high on the weathered granite slopes of the Paardeberg.  It’s owned by the Basson family, one of the original 15 members when the Swartland Winery was founded as a farmers’ co-operative in 1948.
The cooling effects of altitude were particularly welcome in 2015, one of the hottest, driest and earliest vintages on record.  Old bush vines come into their own under such conditions, with their deep root systems enabling them to find sufficient moisture.  Despite the early vintage, Swartland were determined not to pick until the grapes reached full phenolic ripeness, to avoid hard tannins in the wine.  This meant allowing the grapes to reach higher-than-normal sugar levels; at 14.5% ABV, this vintage is half a percent higher in alcohol than its predecessors.
Back at the winery, the grapes were destemmed and crushed, then left for an extended cold soak to pick up aromas from the skins.  Fermentation was in temperature-controlled stainless steel between 24°C and 26°C.  This is on the cool side for reds, with the aim of preserving pure fruit flavours.  During fermentation, wine was pumped over the cap of skins.  Air was allowed into the vat during pump-overs so that some oxygen could dissolve into the fermenting wine.  After fermentation the skins were left in the wine for a further period before pressing.

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