Biodiversity and conservation also high on the agenda...

Groote Post has always been best known for its Sauvignon Blanc, but in recent years its other wines, notably Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot Noir, have gained greater recognition, from wine competitions and its widespread client base alike. Although Groote Post wines have received a steady stream of accolades and awards since its maiden 1999 vintage, co-owner Nick Pentz and winemaker Lukas Wentzel believe that the best has yet to come. While acknowledging that winemaking and, particularly, grape growing are a perpetual work in progress, they are confident that they now have the building blocks in place for a more mature phase in its life cycle. This was amply illustrated during the long and challenging 2004 harvest that produced grapes with the desired physiological factors and phenolic ripeness, resulting in complex wines showing intense fruit flavours. The Sauvignon Blancs are now showing consistency with the sought-after fruit to acid balance.

So it's in the Groote Post vineyards that most development has taken place. Peter Pentz, Nick's father, bought the historic farm Groote Post in 1972 and later added two adjoining farms, including the equally historic Klawer Valley, and today the combined farms total 4 000 hectares. The farm is situated in the Darling Hills on the Cape West Coast. In the early 1990's a soil map was completed of the entire farm. Just over 1 000 hectares were identified as suitable for growing high-quality wine grapes but only the best 140 hectares were earmarked to noble varieties. The initial planting programme took ten years and was completed in 2002 but upgrades and new plantings are taking place continually, with the total currently at 107ha. 

By all accounts the Groote Post terroir on the Kapokberg (the highest of the Darling Hills) is well suited to sauvignon blanc, not least the influence of the cool breezes from the nearby Atlantic ocean. Situated up to 450 metres above sea level the vineyards face directly onto the ocean, only five or so kilometres away. These cool conditions significantly extend the ripening period of the grapes, crucial for top-quality sauvignon fruit, by up to three weeks compared to the vineyards five kilometres inland, where the sea breezes lose their chill. Proof of the terroir's suitability was found on the neighbouring farm, which provided the fruit for the iconic sauvignon blanc made by Neil Ellis under the Groenekloof appellation. Marketing wise it also made sense then to plant sauvignon blanc because the market for this wine was showing great vigour.

Another important factor in growing good sauvignon blanc is the selection of the correct clonal and rootstock material. Groote Post have a variety of both on the farm and it's the later plantings, with their less vigorous growth and consequent reduced 'greenness' that are producing wines with a greater array of flavours and good acid structure. Canopy management too has played a crucial role in the delivery of premium fruit to the cellar. Despite the good water-retaining clay soils vine irrigation was introduced for the first time in 2004, prompted by the long harvest, to help alleviate stress during the hot, dry weather phases of summer.

Groote Post also has vineyards planted to Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Being younger these vineyards are in varying stages of development. The Chardonnay produces small berries with intense citrus flavours, particularly lime. The Pinot Noir vines are improving with age but getting the fruit to optimal physiological ripeness is still the challenge. The Merlot is making great strides and careful canopy management and wider bearer spacing is resulting in riper fruit with the absence of the green stalky characteristics often associated with this grape. Shiraz, planted in lesser-quality soils to help curb vigour, is showing great promise with distinct pepper and spice flavours, in only its second vintage.

Underlining its viticultural excellence, Groote Post has 5 times out of 7 entered won the Vinpro Vineyard Block Competition (Swartland area - comprising 14 000 hectares of vines). A sauvignon Blanc vineyard won the 2000 competition followed a year later by a Merlot block. This year we won the Shiraz block entry.

The Groote Post cellar has a 450-ton capacity and is geared to making small quantities of wine so that certain vineyard blocks can be assessed individually for quality. As the farm's vineyards yield more fruit than the cellar can handle, only the best-quality grapes are vinified. The rest of the grapes are sold off.

Winemaker Lukas Wentzel uses a light hand in the cellar, which is carried through from the gentle handling the grapes receive the moment they are picked. The grapes are hand picked into lug boxes, after unripe grapes are stripped from the bunches followed by further culling on sorting tables. Open and closed tanks are used for fermenting and extended skin contact is allowed, particularly with white wines, to enhance flavour extraction. Pumping, filtering and fining are kept to a minimum to preserve the character of the wines.

Peter and Nick Pentz, owners of Groote Post, fully support the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, a partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector to minimise the further loss of threatened natural habitat, and to contribute to sustainable wine production, through the adoption of biodiversity guidelines by the South African wine industry.

Groote Post and conservation
Peter Pentz has a long history in conservation. In 1996 he was the first private individual to be awarded the State's premier conservation award for the major contribution he made to soil conservation over a fifteen-year period. Also, he was one of the driving forces in establishing the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve, which incorporates Groote Post farm and stretches from the Milnerton lagoon to Langebaan. It was proclaimed by UNESCO in 2000 and Peter Pentz was a founding director of the company formed to manage the Reserve. Not unlike the BWI, the biosphere concept is a partnership between landowners, including the state, of a designated area, to promote harmony between conservation of natural resources and social and economic development.

Groote Post is home to 2 000 hectares of conservation-worthy natural vegetation, including the highly threatened Swartland Granite Renosterveld, Swartland Shale Renosterveld and Atlantis Sand Fynbos. The Groote Post renosterveld makes up 4,7% of South Africa's total area under this vegetation. Groote Post has a 2 000-hectare game camp, shared with neighbouring farmer Henry Louw, that is home to indigenous species such as kudu, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, bontebok, springbok, quaggas, eland and gemsbok.

Other delights at Groote Post
In addition to its excellent wines, Groote Post offers much to delight, including nature walks, farm drives (booking essential), picnics and the award-winning Hilda's Kitchen restaurant. The restaurant is situated in an 18th century restored manor house, originally Klawer Valley farm, now a national monument, and serves modern country cooking to a very high standard. The farm also forms part of the famous West Coast Spring Flower Route. 

For more information on the nature walks please contact Peter Pentz (junior), via email or contact him on +27.224922822, fax is +22.4922653. Bookings are essential.


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