Terroir /ter’wa:, French/n 1. the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate.
As we mentioned in our previous blog article, much of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is blessed with a unique terroir. Let’s discuss this in a little more detail.
Hold onto your spectacles, it’s about to get riveting.
There are three key soils at Spookfontein Wine Farm that form the foundations for our vines and bring distinctive characteristics to our wines.
1. Koffie Klip (Eng. transl.: Coffee Rock)
If you call yourself a geologist, you may call it ‘Iron Ferricrete’. This crumbly, coffee-coloured rock brings acidity to the soil. That soil acidity ultimately brings elegant structure, fresh acidity, red fruit aromas, and earthy undertones to the wine. If a rock made us thirsty, it’d be this one.
2. Sandy Soils
No fancy names here. Just ‘sand’. This well-draining and warmer soil type produces wines with smooth, velvety tannins on the palate and cherry and spice aromas on the nose.
3. Clay Shale
This multi-layered component is comprised of shale, sandstone and shards of siltstone, with clay underneath. Notably, clay is highly effective at retaining vital nutrients, minerals and moisture. Overall, this is a cooler soil-type that produces big, bold, structured wines with an abundance of dark fruits and savoury notes.
Being close to the ocean and surrounded by dramatic hills and mountains creates a unique terroir for the farm, both climate-wise and soil-wise.
These flanking mountains form a “pocket” in the summer months, a type of micro-climate, which ensures the farm gets nice and hot throughout the day. This heat helps with the ripening of the grapes and ultimately creates full-bodied wines. The evenings then bring fresh sea-breezes from Walker Bay that channel up the valley and cool the grapes down once again for the night.
Furthermore, the hilly topography allows for a variety of slopes on which to plant vines. All our vines are planted East to West. However, with each block being on a different slope with varying sun and weather exposure, this brings distinct components to each varietal and allows our winemaker, Nelis Uys, to blend delectably well-balanced wines.
In terms of soil, the mountains really mix it up for us. Close to the foot of the mountain lie the warmer, well-draining sandy soils. Further down, the cooler, mineral-rich clay shale soils are formed by rain water, which cascades down the mountains and through the tributaries on our farm. On the other side of Spookfontein Farm, you’ll find the more acidic koffie klip.
If you’re lucky, you might bear witness to a thick, lazy fog that rolls down the valley and settles between us and our neighbours, Clouds End — hence its name. Quite a spectacle (as fog goes). And we believe it adds a little magic to our winemaking process. Even more elusive than the fog is snow, which falls on the surrounding peaks every few years. Snow goes very well with a glass of red and a fireplace, we believe.
In a nutshell — these majestic mountains create a distinctive and highly variable terroir, perfect for crafting wines brimming with Hemel-en-Aarde character.
Here ends the lesson! If you’re still reading, well done. If we’ve intrigued you enough to try our wines, then well done us!
You can shop our wines online right here. Alternatively, why not pop in to Spookfontein for a chat, some delectably crafted cuisine, and a wine tasting?
Until then, keep well, stay safe, be merry.
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