WINEMAKING

“Wine is sunlight held together by water.”

– GALILEO GALILEI

The classic approach to winemaking on Kanonkop is underscored by the emphasis on vintage.

On this unique piece of Stellenbosch terroir, no year in the vineyards is the same. The focused and site-specific approach to winemaking, which has been at the heart of the estate since the first vintage, ensures the character of each year is captured, its climate and ecological vagaries allowed to express themselves in the wines.

What makes a vintage great?

Nature works in mysterious ways in the vineyard, and no-one has an exact answer. It is a case of all elements being in sync with each other, right from spring budding, through flowering, berry-set and veraison to ripening.

The weather must be warm when it needs to be, and cool at the right time, with moderate moisture stress to prevent vigour. And, of course, picking the grapes at the right time.

The farm lies on a parcel of land that forms a homogenous tract of terroir.

Soils, climate and aspects combine to place a fingerprint of individuality on the ripe grapes; the winemaker’s role is to capture this expression of nature and steer it through vinification, maturation and bottling.

The grapes ripen in February for the Pinotage and mid-March for Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The measurable sugar level (23° – 25° Balling) guides the winemaker towards the picking date and usually indicates that the grapes are ripe enough for harvest and winemaking.

At Kanonkop, however, sugar ripeness is not good enough:

  • The skins have to present the correct degree of tannins
  • The acids must be in balance with the sugar
  • The pips must show development, without a taint of green

When the time is right, all grapes at Kanonkop are picked by hand, and placed into 18kg lug-boxes.

At the cellar, the following processes are followed:

  • Whole bunches are de-stalked
  • 3 stages of berry sorting – sorting machine + vibrating table + computer-controlled optical sorter.
  • Crushed berries pumped into open top concrete fermenters (each holding 10 tons)
  • Yeast inoculation with manual punch-downs every two hours, to ensure optimum yet delicate tannin and colour extraction
  • Metallic coolers on the floor of tanks ensure temperature does not rise above 29°C
  • Pinotage ferments on the skins for 3 days
  • Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc ferments on the skins for 5 – 6 days
  • Most of the wine goes into stainless steel tanks, together with that pressed from the remaining skins
  • Some selected portions are sent directly to wooden barrels

After malolactic fermentation (2 – 3 months), the wine goes into new or 2nd fill 225L French oak barrels for a maturation period of between 12 – 24 months, depending on the wine

MISSION: To ensure Kanonkop remains at the forefront of technology, the production cellar has been upgraded, the number of small barrels increased significantly to extend the wood maturation potential, and the laboratory refurbished and updated with state of the art equipment. A new optical sorting system has been incorporated into the grape reception area to ensure only the best quality grapes are used.

De-stemming and three-stage berry sorting. The computer-controlled optical sorter can be seen on the far right. A camera, with pre-set images of healthy berries captures a photo of every single berry as it passes through on the high-speed conveyor belt. All berries not conforming to the pre-set standard, are removed from the belt by a high-pressure air jet. This results in only unblemished, healthy berries entering the cellar for fermentation.

Manual punch-downs in open top concrete fermenters are conducted every two hours during fermentation

The automated punch-down machine is used on the grapes destined for the Kadette range of wines. Stainless steel paddles move lengthways over the top of the tank, while very gently punching down the cap. This process delivers extremely gentle colour and tannin extractions, and in due course could replace the manual punch-down method still being applied on the Estate range of wines.

Maturation in oak barrels is an integral part of Kanonkop’s wines.

Since the first vintage, only the finest French oak has been used. There are more than 5 000 barrels stored in the cellar, each holding 225 litres of wine.

It all happens on the estate: crushing, fermentation and maturation, right through to bottling and labelling. Traditional methods and modern machinery combine to get fine wine in the bottle. The bottling plant and labelling line is a state-of-the-art facility.

SUSTAINABLE WINE PRODUCTION

To read more about sustainable wine production in South Africa: 

1. Certification Seal

All Kanonkop wine is certified by Sustainable Wine South Africa (SWSA) and a certification seal appears on each bottle.

Sustainable Wine South Africa (SWSA) is the alliance between the Wine and Spirit Board (WSB), the IPW scheme, the WWF-SA Conservation Champion programme and Wines of South Africa (WOSA).

Together these organisations are driving the South African wine industry’s commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly production. Currently 94% of all producers in SA are certified sustainable.

The new Wine and Spirit Board seal guarantees that the wines have been sustainably produced according to their new guidelines and consumers are able to verify this on-line by entering the unique seal numbers on the bottle.

2. Ethical Trade

Kanonkop supports ethical trade and is accredited by WIETA.

The Wine and Agricultural Trading Association (WIETA) is a multi-stakeholder non-profit voluntary organisation which actively promotes ethical trade in the wine industry through training, technical assessment and audits to assess members’ compliance with its code of good practice.

3. Sustainable Power

In 2017, Kanonkop embarked on a solar power-generation project to offset the rising electricity costs and combat the issue of load-shedding. The project was completed in September 2018, and now accounts for close to 50% of the Estate’s daily power usage from its 156 kWp solar plant. With a growing demand for sustainable wine options by educated consumers, we’ve happily opted for a green alternative to electricity supply, that is as nurturing as the land we cultivate. Kanonkop fans will now be able to enjoy wine that has the environment in mind.

4. Our wines are suitable for vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians

The principal aim at Kanonkop is to make the best wine that we possibly can. Within these quality parameters we implement actions to minimise the use of certain additives and fining agents, with the aim of producing healthier wines.

For the past 10 years we’ve actively removed the use of animal-based additives for the fining processes that take place in the cellar. The work we do in the vineyards to deliver quality grapes, combined with the winemaking regime we follow, have allowed us to move away from using products like gelatine and albumin (egg white). Plant-based alternatives, like potato protein, are now being used for clarification and settlement purposes.

We have also done extensive research on tannin additions to minimise the use of sulphur as a protective agent.

This commitment has resulted that our wines can be enjoyed by vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians.

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