SAXENBURG

 

Saxenburg dates back to 1693 when Governor Simon Van Der Stel granted the land to a free burger Joachim Sax. In 1705 the farm became the property of Olaf and Albertus Burg and the name Saxenburg developed from these early pioneers. Saxenburg then had a succession of owners including Lord Henry Somerset and the De Villiers family.

Saxenburg was acquired in 1989 by the Bührer family from Switzerland. Adrian Bührer who together with his wife Birgit and their young family has revived the proud family tradition of Saxenburg’s historic past, ensuring that Saxenburg will continue to grow and develop in the future years.

The vineyards of this historic Wine Farm are situated on the slopes of the Bottelary Hills above Kuilsriver. These fertile vineyards overlooking the Indian and Atlantic oceans enjoy ideal soil and climate conditions, and because of the winter rains and the cool breezes in the summer, no artificial irrigation is required. White cultivars are planted on the cooler southern slopes and the red cultivars on the warmer western slopes.

The vineyards are carefully prepared before planting with the correct trellising and no nitrogen fertilizer is used resulting in a low production yield per hectare.

The Winemaker believes that the best treatment is no treatment and he is therefore more a wine grower. The vineyard staff work closely together with nature to produce grapes of the finest quality.

Only healthy grapes are selected for the Saxenburg cellar. The grapes must be fully ripe to produce full-bodied typical wines with deep colours that will mature into fine wines.

The cellar is very much "hands on" and all Saxenburg red wines are produced in the traditional method of fermenting on the skin, in open tanks with no sulphur being added before fermentation. Plunging and pumping over is carried out until the completion of the fermentation. After pressing, the malolactic fermentation commences and when this is finished the wines are racked into French and American oak barrels for 12 months wood maturation. The Barrels are stored in a temperature controlled maturation cellar and before bottling, the wines are given an egg white fining if needed.

Because of our policy of no treatment, most of our red wines contain some tartaric crystals and so to enjoy Saxenburg red wines at their best it would be advisable to decant them and allow the air to open up their full drinking potential.

Saxenburg white wines are made to compliment our full-bodied red wines. At optimum ripeness, the grapes are harvested only in the cool of the mornings and delivered in lux boxes to the cellar. Because of our very cool region and the correct clones, hardly any additional acid is added to the white wines. A reductive attitude is followed and the wines are bottled young so that they can mature into clean, typical fine wines.

 

 

SAXENBURG CONCEPT WINES

 

The demand for the Saxenburg range of quality wines has developed so fast over the last couple of years it was decided to introduce a second label which would have more availability at a great value for money price – we simply refer to them as Grand vin Blanc and Grand vin Rouge.

Fortunately the solution of how to achieve this was in fact easy. The Bührer Family also own Chateau Capion which is situated in a prime wine producing region of Southen France. Since the purchase of Chateau Capion early in 1996, Saxenburg cellarmaster Nico van der Merwe has been in control of the Capion cellar as well and is responsible for both vintages.

With Nico’s intimate knowledge of Saxenburg and his understanding of Chateau Capion and with his "Une passion le vin, une obsession la quality" he felt that we could create something outstanding by blending wines together from each of the properties. Here the concept was born, the "first" South African/French blend and the first step of Saxenburg concept wines.

Each of the wines that make up the Grand Vin Blanc and Grand Vin Rouge were vinified in their respective cellars by the Saxenburg cellarmaster. The French wines were then shipped to Saxenburg where they were blended to perfection and bottled. During vinification and selection it was paramount that these wines live up to the Saxenburg philosophy, "Unique Wines of Constant & Exceptional Quality".

This new concept is now brought to its conclusion where they are now available to you the consumer, wines you can enjoy young or can be matured further.

 

 

SAXENBURG 1999 HARVEST REPORT - 1

 

Different vintage, different conditions, different wines!

The reason started with a very dry June/July last year and changed to a really wet August through to December 1998. During this period the temperatures and the humidity were high, this caused many problems with diseases. After the middle of January 1999 the weather conditions changed to dry, which stopped the mildew growing.

We started 14 days later them normal (14th February) harvesting, but then it then wet quickly, because of continuing very warm and dry conditions. A brand new harvesting machine helped to finish all the white grapes in less than 10 days. At the end of February the climate changed to cool, which slowed down the ripening of the red grapes so much so that we stopped harvesting for 7 days because of low sugars. It then changed to warm and dry again which rushed the ripening of the red grapes, with time not on our side we had to harvest every day to finish with enough fruit.

Everything went well in the Cellar and the experience of the whole team helped handle all the extra pressure. The new harvester again guaranteed the quick and correct harvesting of our grapes for the best quality.

Tip from the Cellar ghost:

See that you store enough of the 1997 and 1998 and 1999 vintages, because these wines are from very small unhurried crops, with huge maturation potential. From the positive influence of the harvesting experience at Chateau Capion, one can notice since 1997 Saxenburg has changed its philosophy on the vinification. The Chardonnay had the wood maturation period of 6 months stretched to 10 months resulting in a wine that is much more adult and rounded off.

Taste the 1998 Chardonnay – just released!

Make sure that you have something of Vinoteque offer of the older vintages of Saxenburg Red wines.

 

SAXENBURG 1999 HARVEST REPORT - 2

 

THE WINES:

Sauvignon Blanc:

With a second small crop of only 5 tons/ha, the grapes were very healthy, fullripe and aromatic. An elegant flavorful wine with nice fruit, because of the rush ripening.

Chardonnay:

Also a very small crop of 2 tons/ha, full, nutty, with nice fruit and big maturation potential.

Pinotage:

An unusually small crop of 4 tons/ha without cutting out grapes. Dense colour and typical plumy, well-balanced, compact fruit.

Merlot:

Normal crop of 4-6 tons/ha, because of a cool slope, I could leave the grapes to a very fullripe stage without having a jammy character. Soft but compact red fruit and nice soft tannins.

Cabernet Sauvignon:

Because of a careful selection of clones and soil, Saxenburg does not have Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards which tend to mature slow under difficult climate conditions. All matured well during the first half of March and we could finish the harvest by the 3rd week. Good colour, nice fruit and plenty of flavour, Cabernet Sauvignon which can mature well in good wood.

Shiraz:

The young vineyards of Saxenburg have matured and the warm dry conditions concentrated the juice well. Again the rushed maturation towards the end gave very nice fruit, flavour, and colour. With only 5 days of maceration after the fermentation the wine was already balanced with ripe soft tannins to mature well. All wines are of good quality and 1 judge the 1999 vintage between the 1997 and 1998 quality.

 

SAXENBURG 1998 HARVEST REPORT - 1

 

What a hectic time! Only four weeks of harvest, very unusual for South Africa. In November last year I came to notice the healthiest and most well-balanced crop I have ever seen on Saxenburg. The rain (110mm) during November was perfect to maintain the growth in all the vineyards. The temperature was also very comfortable for nature and human to commence their duties.

But between Christmas and New Year the whole situation changed drastically because of very high temperatures over four days. The maturity galloped and we lost some grapes due to sunburn. Luckily it became cooler, but the maturity also slowed down and at one stage it was as of it had stagnated. From the end of January the weather changed to warm and dry and remained so till the end of February.

All of a sudden all the grapes were ripe at the same time and setting priorities was very important. Because of Saxenburg’s advance planning we had no problem with this because the harvest machine is fast and effective. I could wait till optimum ripeness of all the grapes before I harvested them. For this vintage I was also the operator of our machine, and now know all our vineyards from 2 metres above which gave me a clear indication of the quality of our vineyards and soil.

We started off with Pinotage on the 29th January, very full-ripe but with firm berries and nice acid. A week later we harvested Sauvignon Blanc and from there on it was chaos. We harvested every day of the week till the end. Our cellar was under big pressure, but seeing that we harvest twice a year it was not a problem to make quick decisions for proper vinification. Everything went well and although the red wines are higher in alcohol I did not have any problems with stuck fermentation. Well done to Louis Strydom and his team who received their orders during the day via radio and cellular phone (it could have been and excellent theme for a Vodacom advert).

 

SAXENBURG 1998 HARVEST REPORT - 2

 

THE WINES:

This vintage I am vinifying less white wine because of the very low production. Sauvignon Blanc only 50% of a normal production, Chardonnay was also less 15% whereas the Chenin Blanc was less 10%. The Sauvignon Blanc is full-bodied, soft, fruity but with smooth acids, higher extracts and alcohol, more green figs and flowery – an elegant early drinking wine. The Chardonnay is also very full-bodied, nutty and citrus, nice fruit but with a full-ripe character which can mature well in the wood.

The red wine is a big sensation. We harvested at full-ripe stage with high concentration of colour, fruit and tannins. The Pinotage is plummy and very well balanced, the Merlot more black fruit and mulberries with very fine tannins, the Cabernet Sauvignon also black fruit and chocolaty, very dark colour, long fruit and huge finish with dry tannins. With the Shiraz it was a real pleasure – we have a big variety of different wines but all are of excellent quality and Saxenburg can offer even more with the outstanding 1997 vintage, wines with deep black colours, smoky, peppery, the very typical Shiraz stink, nice tannins but enormous finish and balance between the alcohol, tannins and fruit. 1998 in my opinion was ‘the’ year for growing Cape Shiraz of outstanding quality. Most of the old vineyards could produce the best because of the early vintage.

So, the shortest harvest in my life can produce some of the best wines of my career. Let’s wait for the surprises.

 

 
 

 

SAXENBURG 1997 HARVEST REPORT - 1

 

In 1994 I had my earliest harvest of my career and now, 3 years later in 1997 my latest harvest of my career. Six weeks later than a normal harvest we started to pick the grapes.

Because of the very late winter and its rain the ripening process was cool and long which gave us stronger wines because of the higher natural acid content. Also the consistent rainfall produced a normal production of grapes which were almost destroyed by mildew. Seeing that Saxenburg controls its vineyards well, we could secure the vegetation with the correct chemical treatment.

With the perfect balance between a healthy vegetation, an average amount of grapes per hectare and enough rainfall the vineyards produced enough sugar without any problem which gave very well-balanced wines.

Also because of the cool summer most of the cultivars were ripe at their respective time of the season which gave us a chance to harvest over a long period, which means again that we had enough time to treat all wines as we like to do and that the atmosphere in the cellar was very relaxed. The other end of the story is that we then finished after Easter weekend which means a long harvesting period. Saxenburg received the last grapes on Friday, 11th April (Cabernet Sauvignon), this means almost 8 weeks of harvesting against only 4-5 weeks in 1994.

So, the ripening was long and cool with enough rain, but since the beginning of the harvest we hardly had any rain. Therefore we also had the minimum amount of botrytis rot in our vineyards, most of the grapes were clean, healthy and fully ripened.

This helped me a lot because this season was the first time that Saxenburg applied a harvesting machine to help our pickers by taking the pressure off them during peak time. We shipped the machine from Chateau Capion in France to Saxenburg and after the harvest it will go back to France.

The above was big experience for me because I also wanted to see if we could increase or at least keep the quality with mechanical harvesting. The end result was tremendous because our team could work under normal conditions and the crop was in the cellar earlier and in a better condition. For example, the Sauvignon Blanc is very sensitive to high temperature and oxidation, so we started early in the morning (0500 hours) and finished our quantity for the day by 0900 hours. The grapes came in very cool and quick so that we could vinificate it before any influence of oxidation. We could also wait till all the grapes were fully ripe before we harvested them because with the machine it is easy to react quickly.

This helped us to produce very nice 1997 wines. By using a mechanical harvester Saxenburg proved that we can keep our vineyards in a perfect condition.

 

SAXENBURG 1997 HARVEST REPORT - 2

 

THE WINES:

White:

We started with some Chardonnay which was hand picked. The flavours are not as tropical as the 1996 but very lemony, citrus-like with enough body and natural acid. For this vintage the Saxenburg Chardonnay will stay in wood for 10 months because of the gentle handling the colour is elegant and grassy, "cat’s pee" and a bit flowery, where the taste is full strong, flinty and with a long fruity finish – the wine will mature very well. Saxenburg will also increase its production of Sauvignon Blanc with this excellent vintage. In general the whites are better than 1996, but the biggest difference is with the reds.

Red:

With this vintage the old saying that the red wines of the uneven vintages are better, is true. During January it seemed that all red cultivars would ripen at the same time, but it turned out to be otherwise. All the cultivars ripened very well individually and, because of our low yield per hectare policy also with high sugars and acid. This produced perfect colours, excellent body, finesse and finish in all the red wines. All the wines have great maturation potential and will stay in the cellars longer before one can enjoy them. All the red wines are still made the traditional way with plunging and pumping over, and because of the better structures I built in a bit more tannins to balance off the wines.

In short what seemed to be a difficult harvest turned out to be the easiest and the best all over quality one. Before I finish this report I would like to bring your attention to the best secret of our cellar – watch out for the Les Deux Mers Rouge and Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc. These will be on the market soon and are a perfect surprise for extra enjoyment in wine