2016 is a ‘Circle of Life’ vintage for Waterkloof, but not without challenges.

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Waterkloof wine estate has unveiled its latest vintage of the “Circle of Life” white wine, which will come as good news for those who follow the estate as the “Circle of Life” is only released in years that match expected quality.

We spoke exclusively to the winemaker, Nadia Barnard who says it was obvious early on that this vintage would be a Circle of Life year.

“With our wine winemaking philosophy, it is important to taste the grapes in the vineyard to determine the course of the vintage,” she explains. “When tasting we allocate certain blocks already in our head. For Circle of Life we are looking for freshness and linearity. When we find the two blocks that can achieve that together by blending the juice then we know this is a Circle of Life kind of year.”

Barnard explains that Waterkloof’s wine philosophy is about subtlety. The trick she says is to keep things relatively pure.

“We have to make sure that we pick at the optimal ripeness level where we retain freshness and steer away from overripe flavours. In the winery it is about working as gently as possible and not over extracting at all,” she says explaining the estate’s ability to blend a noted combination of banana, orange peel, and floral notes, with a healthy dose of minerality.

It’s in the balance

It’s in the balance that “Circle of Life” has made its name, something Barnard is well aware of.

“The strength of the wine is its elegance and finesse; its how it shows such lovely integration. We were looking at making a wine that shows beautiful length and keeps you going back to your glass with all of its complexity,” she says, and it shows. The Circle of life has a long after taste that lingers on the palette and knowing that it was chosen at the grape level, offers added insight into a wine that was crafted from beginning to end.

A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Semillon the wine’s balance is perhaps visible to all who know the individual grapes, with the Semillon rounding out the sometimes abrasive green notes of the Sauvignon Blanc. This balance though is less easy to create than it is to imagine and takes quite a bit of pre-thinking according to Barnard.

“We leave it on the lees for about a year and don’t fine the wine. We also leave it in the bottle for over a year to make sure that the wine is perfectly in settled in balance when it is released,” she says.

While she speaks as if she had the first choice in every decision, Barnard also admits that 2016 was a challenging vintage with the first effects of Cape Town’s infamous drought becoming apparent.

“For 2016 we started to see the first bit of the effect of the drought showing,” she says. “The yields were a bit lower and the vineyards were also stressed because it needed more water to grow better.”

Recent healthy rainfalls in the region should hopefully see this become a problem for the past, but with 2017 already in the barrel so to speak, there will be a lingering affect for one or two vintages yet.

The Circle of life retails at the estate itself and on their website and currently comes in at around R160 a bottle.