Heinrich Kulsen, CWG Protege, Reports Back on Harvest 2012

My experience at Ernie Els wines started off with a warm greeting by which Louis Strydom, Klaas (ass winemaker) and I sat down to have breakfast. Louis kindly explained the role that I was going to fulfill as a vineyard and cellar assistant.

Of course as with any other job you have to start at the bottom. For the first time I was introduced to the art of labeling, which I feel is of the utmost importance in this industry. You have to set your product apart from the norm and labeling can be an effective tool. There are many dimensions when it comes to labeling. You have to check the bottles every now and then to make sure they are absolutely perfect and also keep track of the SAWIS seals on your bottles for documentation purposes.  Cellar hygiene is one of the aspects a winemaker cannot escape. Cleaning tanks properly is important.

Racking of barrels once a year to make sure the wine is still healthy is also a technique that can be used. Of course it has its advantages and disadvantages. You drastically lower the NTU of the wine which is good but you also add considerable amounts of oxygen to the wine which can have some negative influences on the quality.

For the first time I came into contact with a bulk wine truck. You have to be alert when moving wine from your cellar to another place. You come into contact with people who don’t care about the quality of the wine and their main concern is only the money they make. So you have to clean out the truck yourself before you pump your wine in there.

We started harvesting on the 20th of February. Harvest can become painful at times but it can also be very painless. As long as your planning is in place and your cellar is prepared for the grapes it becomes relatively easy. There are obviously other factors which are entirely out of your control which can cause major delays in the process.

One thing is for certain - I’ve come to understand - this is a fantastic year for wine. Because of the cool summer we had the grapes did not ripen as fast. The hanging time of the bunches was extended and although the sugars were sometimes too low, the grapes are phenolically ripe. High quality wine can come from this vintage.

I have learnt that there is a moving trend towards more floral, fruity wines from green, tannic ones. This also means that the way you manage your process will be different. I learnt that using Viognier in Shiraz is a powerful tool in creating a consumer friendly floral wine. There are many ways in which Viognier can be incorporated. The first: fermenting the juice prior to blending with different strains of yeast. The second: fermenting the grape skins along with the Shiraz in one tank. The third: adding the must of the settled juice to the Shiraz and fermenting.

You’ve got to be able to think on your feet and always think of the next step.

Years in Programme?   This is my first year Where are you at the moment? Working alongside Louis Strydom at Ernie Els Wines

Harvest in Process

Wine Tanker "from the top"