Cat’s Cradle 2020
Swartland Chenin blanc needs no introduction, having long assumed its place among the world’s key expressions of the grape variety. Langkloof, where we source our grapes for this wine is an old bush vine Chenin blanc vineyard planted on the granite slopes of the Paardeberg that belongs to the Roussouw family.
An enormous amount of work goes into the vineyard during the growing season to ensure that the vineyard can carry a healthy and balanced crop. Picking is done with a clear eye on the acidity of the crop which can fall away dramatically during the harvest due to the paucity of these granite based soils.
This is a very clear and bright expression of Chenin blanc, with aromas of poached pear, quince and lemon thyme. In the mouth the texture is fine bright acidity and wet stone notes. This is a wine that will reward some time in the cellar to allow its full aromatic expression to develop.
Nuts & Bolts
Chenin blanc – Swartland – 41 year old vineyard on decomposed granite
Residual sugar – 2.10 g/L
Total acidity – 6.2 g/L; pH 3.35
About The Wine
The 2020 was the beginning of the end of the terrible drought that afflicted the Cape over the last few years, and it was refreshing to be working with some water during the growing season. That said, many of the vineyards were still feeling the hangover of the drought and their reserves were very depleted. 2020 was a relatively early harvest because of this and it was not a year to wait around for high ripeness levels. I think the previous years provided a good training ground for making sure that we picked the 2020 grapes early enough. That said, many of the wines were naturally a touch riper which has lent a lovely generosity to the vintage.
Chenin blanc on granite is something that we have worked with for all the years that we have been making our Thorne and Daughters wines, though Cat’s Cradle was only first released in 2017 as a single vineyard wine. Overall in the industry, yields were up around 8% due to the increased water availability, but in the case of the Langkloof vineyard our yields were still very low due to cool, windy conditions during flowering, so unfortunately we still made very little wine from this vineyard in 2020.
We’ve kept our winemaking simple and natural, as we have no desire to stand between the vineyard and its expression as a wine in the glass. The grapes are whole-bunch pressed in an old basket press and there are no additions of sulphur dioxide made on the juice. A rough settling follows pressing after which the wines undergo natural alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in old oak barrels. We add some sulphur dioxide late in the winter, and then again at bottling, keeping the level of sulphur dioxide as low as possible. The result is wines that show tension without losing their suppleness and core, and wines that will reward time in the cellar.