The rhythm of the seasons at Cederberg Private Cellar

Late January to beginning of April: Harvest time When the new year begins at Cederberg Private Cellar, the farm is a hive of activity in preparation for the new harvest. Tanks, barrels, equipment and implements are cleaned and overseen and two students arrive to help in the cellar. The harvest starts in the last week in January. Temporary staff join the picking and vineyard teams. Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc and Bukettrabue are picked first, before the late-ripening cultivars like Cabernet sauvignon and Shiraz. Tammy Turck-Nel, who makes the red wines at Cederberg Private Cellar, explains what happens in the cellar during harvest time. ‘The cellar comes alive as the de-stemmer/crusher starts rolling and presses start inflating. Music in the background keeps us going as we do the racking of juices and yeast inoculations. The wonderful aromas of fermentation starts filling the air. We daily monitor fermentation sugars and temperatures on white and red. There are big splashes of red must with pump-overs and hard manual punchdowns to get the beautiful colour in the reds. The reds are barrelled and we start monitoring the reds and whites during barrel maturation.’
Late April to September: Vineyard and cellar management After the harvest, the temporary teams of vineyard workers and pickers depart. The permanent staff start cleaning the vineyard and plant a winter cover crop. Pruning takes place between June and August and compost and mulch are applied in preparation for Spring. In the cellar, tasting, bottling and blending continue. Says Tammy: ‘No time is wasted in the winery. The whites are tasted and blending trials are completed to decide the fate of the current Cederberg white wines. Big blending and stabilisation takes place in preparation for bottling. The current vintages of reds are monitored for completion of malolactic fermentation. At the same time, the previous vintages are tasted rigorously from the barrel to create the Cederberg reds. Once the Teen Die Hoog Shiraz and Five Generations Cabernet Sauvignon barrels have been selected, the big job of barrel racking begins. Barrels start rolling out and new ones take their place, filled with current vintage, which now has to rest for the next 15 months.’ The wines are bottled using a mobile bottling system. Four bottling sessions occur through the year.
October to end of January: Canopy management The most important task from Spring to just before the harvest is to manage the canopy for optimal berry development as the grapes grow and ripen. On a farm with 66 ha under vine, ‘tipping’ and ‘topping’ are endless tasks that demand particular expertise. The vineyards are constantly monitored to keep them disease free. After the red wines are bottled in October, the cellar starts to quieten down. ‘We continue keeping an eye on barrel maturation, topping up the reds in the barrel and doing the bâttonage (stirring of the lees) of the white barrels. In December we prepare for the final bottling at the end of the year. Then, finally, the winery is closed for a small break over Christmas. It’s the calm before the storm, before the cleaning work starts for the new season,’ says Tammy. Read more about wine terminology at www.gallowebcentral.com/glossary.html

Vineyard Team

The vineyard team is responsible for the preparation and management of the vineyards to ensure harvests of consistent excellence. Their tasks, among other things, include planting a winter cover crop to enrich the soil, applying mulch and compost, and pruning. During the growing season they manage the canopy by ‘tipping’ and ‘topping’ to ensure proper berry formation and monitor the health of the vines. Their busiest time is from January to April when the grapes are harvested. Extra pickers and vineyard staff are often employed on a contract basis during harvest time.

Cellar Team

The cellar team’s tasks demand all-year-long, hands-on involvement. Harvest time is the start of a long process of careful monitoring, selection, tasting and blending of wine in wooden barrels and stainless-steel tanks. Apart from blending different varieties, wines from the same varieties but different barrels or tanks are blended to produce a more harmonious wine, add complexity to the wine or keep wines uniform in quality and character from year to year. Blending is therefore a crucial process to consistently produce the signature characteristics of Cederberg Private Cellar’s wines.

LIVING ON DWARSRIVIER

About 120 people live on Dwarsrivier farm, among them sixth-generation Nieuwoudts and fifth-generation farmworkers. There are 29 houses on the farm for the administrative staff, cellar hands, vineyard workers, and a small staff looking after the gardens and the campsite at Sanddrif Holiday Resort. David Nieuwoudt lives in the manor house with his wife, Cisca, and their daughter, Emma. David’s father, Ernst Nieuwoudt, and his wife, Marlene, also live on the farm. And what would the farm be without Jennifer Bock, better known as Koekie? Koekie, the ‘bobotie queen’, is in charge of the manor house and visitor hospitality services.

Packing Team

The dexterous Cederberg packing team can wrap bottles, fold boxes and affix award stickers to bottles at the speed of light. They also package the wines in six-packs, stack them on fumigated pallets and wrap the pallets in plastic for secure shipment. The team ensures that each box intended for export carries the correct barcode to meet the strict international regulations. Cederberg Private Cellar exports its wine to more than 25 countries across the world.

Construction & Maintenance Team

André van Zijl and his eight-man team are responsible for maintenance and construction on Dwarsrivier farm. The team has the expertise to handle a variety of maintenance and construction tasks, from bricklaying and plastering to carpentry and painting, but specialised plumbing and electrical tasks are subcontracted to outside contractors. Among their recent achievements are the red-brick cladding on the outside walls of the new cellar and the construction of a subterranean ablution block with a roof garden at the cellar complex.

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