GOLDEN GLORY – The Aaldering Noble Late Harvest
It’s a winemaker’s dream come true: to produce a wonderful golden dessert wine. The Aaldering Noble Late Harvest will be for sale from 2018.
LET’S START FROM THE BEGINNING: WHAT IS A LATE HARVEST WINE?
“Late harvest wine is wine made from grapes left on the vine longer than usual. Late harvest is usually an indication of a sweet dessert wine. Late harvest grapes are often more similar to raisins, but have been naturally dehydrated while on the vine.”
IS IT AS SIMPLE AS THAT?
“No, you need a process of Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot, a mould that causes grapes to lose nearly all of their water content. Wines made from botrytis-affected grapes are generally very sweet. Botrytis cinerea is a fungus that affects many wine grapes and causes them to shrivel up into mouldy raisins. The fungus responds to the humidity and warmth of the climate and attacks the grapes. As the mould penetrates the skin its spores begin to germinate, causing the water inside to evaporate and the grape to dehydrate. With the absence of water, the sugar becomes more concentrated and the Botrytis begins to alter the acidity within the grape. The infection rate of Botrytis is erratic and bunches achieve full infection at different times. This requires harvest workers to go through the vineyards several times between January and February to pick the infected grapes by hand.”
WHY AND HOW DID YOU SET YOUR MIND ON MAKING THIS NLH?
“2016 vintage was a dry and warm year and therefore it is so much more exciting to be able to produce a Noble Late Harvest in such a challenging year!
Part of the Sauvignon Blanc vines were managed slightly differently from previous years to create an environment that is more suited to produce noble rot. The irrigation scheduling was adjusted and the canopies have been left to grow more vigorously than in the rest of the vineyards.
This was a gamble. During the ripening period, at approximately 20 and 22 Balling sugar, we had rain which was superb timing as the sugars were already high enough and the berries had started to soften up.
Botrytis started to grow on the majority of the grape bunches in this part of the vineyard and kept on growing with the help of the rains we had. We carefully monitored the vineyard to make sure it developed into noble rot and not grey rot (which would have spoiled the grapes instantly) and the sugars were constantly checked to make sure we reached the required target.”
WHAT IS THAT TARGET?
“We aimed for a sugar content of 380g/L to end up with an alcohol percentage after fermentation of 10.5% vol.”
CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH THE HARVEST PROCESS?
“Once the grapes were ready to harvest we did selective picking to increase the concentration of botrytis-infected grapes and the fruit was brought into the cold room to stay cold until the next day. The next morning the grapes were destemmed and crushed. The skins were left for another night at 8 degrees Celsius so that flavour and sugars could be extracted from the skins, as well as those very sought-after Botrytis flavours. The juice was then pressed out the following day and after settling fermentation started slowly. A close eye was kept by monitoring regularly. This went on for a few weeks and fermentation stopped at 160 grams of sugar. The wine was then aged in tanks for a year before preparation for bottling started.”
WHAT IS THE COLOUR AND WHAT ARE THE DOMINANT TONES WE WILL TASTE?
“The wine has an intense golden hue. You will taste beautiful Botrytis notes with honeycomb and apricot on the nose. Succulent flavours of dried pear and green fig together with wonderful sucrosity lingering elegantly on the palate.”
HOW LONG WAS THE NLH IN THE BARRELS?
“It was in stainless steel tanks for one year.”
HOW MANY BOTTLES WILL LEAVE THE ESTATE?
“Approximately 7,000 bottles will surprise the world.”
WILL THIS NLH BE A PART OF THE AALDERING RANGE FROM NOW ON, OR IS IT PRODUCED EVERY SO MANY YEARS?
“It will only be produced in exceptional years but will be available as part of the range. We will make sure that our clients can get the taste of it.”
HOW DO YOU GET THIS NLH ACCREDITED?
“Firstly, we have to give notice to the authorities three days before harvesting that we will be producing and therefore harvesting NLH grapes. Secondly, the wine needs to be tasted and approved by a panel of the Wine and Spirit Board. The wine must show enough NLH characteristics to be approved. Thirdly, it must comply with all the Wine and Spirit Board’s analytical requirements.”