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New Ways, Old Traditions

New Ways, Old Traditions

Winemakers in South Africa are sending a holistic message when it comes to their wine and its link to the surrounding natural and economic environment. At Solms-Delta Estate, located in the heart of the Cape Winelands, visitors will discover much more than a vineyard. The 320-year-old estate’s custodian, Professor Mark Solms, is a world renowned neuroscientist and best-selling author. His vineyard management decisions are all based on scientific, site-specific findings, he notes. Solms-Delta prides itself in its experimental and “uniquely South African approach” to winemaking, where French varietals are desiccated on the vine, a process used by the ancient Greeks.

“Desiccation is, quite simply, strangulation,” explains Solms. “The stalks of the bunches of grapes are clamped on the vine before harvest, thus blocking the channels carrying various components to and from the berries. While up to 40% of the water evaporates, the natural acids and grape sugars are retained, concentrating flavours and color.”

The Solms-Delta estate claims primarily to embrace and celebrate what it means to be South African, which to Solms means honoring every aspect of the country’s history. The Museum van de Caab, located in the estate’s original  wine cellar, dating back to 1740, emphasizes the lives of the people

who have lived and worked on the farm since pre-colonial times. “In the second decade of our democracy,” says Solms, “what ‘South African-ness’ stands for has started to change. Hidden or  ignored  narratives  have  revealed  themselves,  and  our appreciation of our heritage has become far more inclusive. We have discovered that our history, however difficult, painful, complex, and also inspiring, is the shared basis for our future. In everything we do at Solms-Delta we try to honor what it means to be South African, to be Hiervandaan, in an honest and open way that unites all of our people.”

The estate is not only committed to giving a voice to those overlooked by history. Solms has also made it a part of estate’s duty to give back to the farm residents and workers. In 2005, The Wijn de Caab Trust was established for the purpose of benefiting the historically disadvantaged employees of the wine farm. A percentage of all wine sales now goes directly to workers’ home repairs, education, and healthcare.

Solms-Delta wines are produced with great mindfulness of every component needed to achieve its standard of quality, from the biology of the plant, to the well being of the farm workers. Solms concludes, “Solms-Delta wines are the products of a long and complex struggle embodying the aspirations and sacrifices of innumerable ordinary people, past and present.”


Editors note: This is the second of Santé's continuing series on South Africa's wine revolution.

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