MOYA MEAKER RIESLING 2021
Winemaker: Jean Smit
Cultivar: 100% Riesling
Origin: Habibi Farm, Elgin
This classically styled cool-climate Riesling offers a tidy vanguard of green apple, chalk dust, and a burst of white star jasmine. The palate carries stone fruit and Seville orange, neatly sewn up by a supremely lengthy crystalline seam of fresh lime, white grapefruit pith, and tart green apple acidity.
Making a truly great Riesling is a tall order; even when the weather makes for proverbial plain sailing. But as history will show, 2022 was not plain sailing. It was a vintage that required tireless attention to detail, as the fast-changing conditions required constant monitoring.
Due to higher-than-usual winter rains, our groundwater levels finally recovered from the drought that started in 2017/2018. The winter was atypically cold, with above-average cold units. This created excellent resting conditions for our vineyards to be able to enjoy an even budbreak (albeit quite late).
Riesling is an odd cultivar, in that it requires a slightly denser canopy than most grapes to protect against sunburn. But it is also very susceptible to fungal disease, which is usually remedied by thinning of the vine canopy. As we hinted at earlier, the 2022 vintage kept us on our toes in this regard.
Growth was slow initially, but picked up quickly during flowering and fruit set. This change of pace required “rapid-response” viticulture from the team, as the quickening shoot growth in summer, and the subsequent rains, dramatically increased disease pressure. Ordinarily, viticulturists would respond with more vigorous topping and leaf plucking in the fruit zone to lower disease pressure. But in this instance, the result would have been some disastrous sunburn to the grapes when, just a few weeks later, a series of severe heatwaves hit the winelands.
Conditions like these really highlight the importance of site selection when planning one’s vineyards. Our dense-planting regimen and low irrigation naturally lower vine vigour, and the very windy site also reduces disease pressure. The combination of these factors meant that we could keep most of our leaves on the vine, which protected against sunburn when the heatwaves arrived.
Fortunately, the rest of the season had constant, moderate conditions, which allowed the grapes to enjoy a hangtime roughly two weeks longer than usual. The end result was the production of some strikingly aromatic wines, with intense flavour.
Moya Meaker’s Riesling was planted in 2006 on a convex southwest-facing slope of our estate in the Elgin Valley. The densely planted vines are seated on ancient clay-rich Bokkeveld shale soils, at an altitude of 289m ASL. The vine rows run along a north-south orientation; parallel to the prevailing winds. This is crucial to ensuring comprehensive airflow through the entire vineyard, which is our first natural line of defence against the dangers of botrytis developing on the fruit. The south-southwest aspect is also important to capture the afternoon sunlight.
Harvesting of our Riesling took place on 18 March at a balling reading of 21.4°B. The 2022 season was the second consecutive profoundly cool vintage in Elgin. At the time of picking, the acidity levels were eye-watering, but the overwhelming elderflower aromas coming off the grapes made it very obvious that we couldn’t wait any longer to harvest.
The grapes were hand-picked in the early morning and chilled further overnight. All of the fruit was destemmed before being gravity-fed into the press. This gentle method of transfer ensures that berries are not crushed during the process, which would lead to the release of excessive phenolics. Skin contact was done in a sealed press for six hours, before starting the gentle pressing cycle.
The juice was settled in concrete tanks over 48 hours, before being racked to tulip-shaped concrete vessels for a long, cool fermentation, which lasted nearly 2 months. This slower process allows us to more easily achieve the optimal balance between the residual sugar and acidity.
Bottling took place after 11 months of lees contact. There was then a further nine months of in-bottle maturation prior to release.
This wine will be at its most expressive within five years of vintage, but with careful cellaring, it will continue to evolve and improve for more than a decade.
TOTAL PRODUCTION: 3,200 x 750ml
BOTTLING DATE: 20 January 2023
TA: 8.5 g/L
RS: 7.3 g/L
VA: 0.45 g/L