The why, the what and the how of...
Husband-and-wife team Chris and Suzaan Alheit, of Alheit Vineyards, over a short period of time and despite their young age, have attracted celebrity-like status both on home soil and abroad. It all comes down to a collection of white wines that now sit alongside the Cape’s very best, which started with their maiden vintage in 2011, Cartology.
A big part of the success of Alheit Vineyards is that classic example of talented youth having gotten their hands dirty at various wine estates around the world and bringing it back home. Their hands-on experience during harvests overseas and their admiration for the finest European wines have inspired them to create “very South African wine”.
The Alheits share a similar philosophy to one which is central to most of the producers in our Great Domaines portfolio: a focus on terroir. More than 80% of Chris and Suzaan’s attention is dedicated to the health of the vineyards; farming in tandem with nature to encourage healthy soils. They are fortunate to work with the most extraordinary old, dry-farmed bush-vine vineyards in the Cape. Most of the vineyards are 30 to 40-years-old (if not older) and truly represent the heritage of the Cape.
“Our goals are simple. We want to make wines with a clear sense of Cape identity. We want to show that the Cape’s vinous heritage is worth celebrating and protecting. We love old vineyards. We love dry farming. We love bush vines. We think that ‘ordinary grapes’ are in fact wonderful. We believe that great things are possible here in the Cape, and that we are now just scratching the surface of what can be done.” Chris and Suzaan Alheit
The winemaking approach at Alheit Vineyards is very minimalist and follows principles learnt in Europe; crafting wines of elegance and restraint that still show ample concentration, but never of excess weight. All grapes are gently whole-bunch pressed and there is no addition of enzymes, sulphur or yeast. Natural fermentation only occurs in old barrels and the wines are not racked off. The wines are kept on the lees for around 12 months before being left to rest in tank. A further four months are allowed for wines to sit in bottle (no fining) before being released.
With a focus on very low yielding bush-vines, the Alheits’ production is very small. Their flagship wine, Cartology, swiftly became one of the Cape’s top white blends and highly sought-after.