Louisvale, one of the pioneers of Chardonnay in South Africa, is still solely planted to Chardonnay albeit different Davis clones. The vineyards are all east-facing and planted in an east-west direction. The Bottelary Hill to the west offers welcome shade in the peak of summer when the sun sets behind it allowing for slower ripening and richer fruit development.
Deep, well-drained Hutton and Clovelly decomposed granite soils ensure that the vineyards remain â€˜drylandâ€™ until after the harvest, after which the vines are irrigated. All Louisvale grapes are hand-harvested and the vineyard blocks are treated separately.
Since 1994, the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have been sourced from the neighbouring vineyard, where the wine maker partners with the owner in managing the vines to Louisvaleâ€™s exact specifications. By doing this, he has ensured that the red wines have retained their Louisvale character.
Different vineyard blocks are treated according to the specific Chardonnay style demanded from a specific block. The grapes for the unwooded and Chavant wines are harvested at full phenolic ripeness, but earlier, and at a slightly lower sugar level than those intended for our Louisvale Chardonnay.
Special care is taken with the grapes intended for our flagship Chardonnay. The grapes are harvested at a later, riper and more complex stage, as the juice needs to marry with the new French oak barrels to create a well-balanced, harmonious wine with neither the fruit nor wood, overpowering each other.
On arrival at the cellar the hand-harvested grapes are immediately placed in the refrigeration room and left overnight at 8Â° C. The following morning they undergo a meticulous and time-consuming scrutiny, where all the undesired berries and leaves are removed at the sorting table. This is followed by crushing and destalking, draining and pressing.
The juice for the unwooded Chardonnay is fermented at 15Â° C in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The lees are returned to the wine. The juice of the Chavant and flagship Chardonnay wines is inoculated with the yeast strain in the stainless steel tanks. As soon as fermentation commences, it is moved to the barrels.
Louisvale uses 50% new 225 litre French oak barrels for the Chardonnay, where it remains on the lees for six to eight months. Malolactic fermentation is never induced, but if it happens naturally, it is allowed to continue.
The lightly wooded Chavant spends four months in second, third and fourth fill barrels and does not undergo malolactic fermentation. The wines are refined, stabilised and filtered prior to bottling.
Our red grapes are crushed and destalked before undergoing fermentation, commencing at 18 degrees C. Once inoculated, the temperature rises to 26-28Â° C at which fermentation is allowed to continue. The fermented juice is pumped over three to four times a day to encourage the extraction of colour and tannin. Fermentation continues on the skins for an average of eight days, after which the fermenting red wine is drained off the skins and racked into a stainless steel tank, where the process is completed.
The pressed juice from the skins may be added for complexity and flavour. The wine is then racked off the rough lees into a tank where it undergoes malolactic fermentation, followed by a minimum of 12 months€™ maturation in 225Â litre French oak barrels. The wine receives minimal filtration prior to bottling, to retain as much of its character and flavour as possible.