“Nature has given us a really good hand of cards,” he says. “Ideal conditions dovetailed perfectly with our winemaking approach – which is to interfere as little as possible. As winemakers we’ve been less involved: nature has taken the lead, which is exactly the way like it.”
Cooler nights in January helped create lots of clean fruit flavours and natural acidity in the white wines. Among the red grapes there was also a lot of freshness and acidity. While the Western Cape has struggled with drought – making this year’s yield smaller than previously – a bout of rain in early February perked up the vines, helping the grapes to ripen earlier than usual.
“We picked earlier than we normally do because we found there was already phenolic ripeness at lower sugar levels. The grapes typically had 0.5% lower alcohol than usual – ensuring an exceptional balance between fruit freshness and alcohol. No wines will be over 15%,” he says.
Higher acidity has lengthened the potential lifespan of the wine and meant that hardly any acidity had to be added artificially in the cellar.
“I believe there’s a direct correlation colour and quality: the better colour, the higher quality,” Frans says. “You need colour to make a big wine. The fact that excellent colour was already present early on in the fermentation of the reds meant we could be very gentle when extracting tannins during pump-over.”
This means Spier’s 2017 wines will be refined and softer with elegant tannin structure.
“The red wines will age very well,” Frans says. “When they’re young they’ll be fine and structured. After five or six years they’ll gentler and softer. They’re not flamboyant or super-ripe – instead, they’re rich and elegant, with a complex layering of different flavours.”