All the latest releases, news and offers from the team at Ernie Els Wines.
1. Ernie Els Wines Cellar update
It’s proper winter in the Stellenbosch winelands. Temperatures have dropped and we are thankful for every drop of rain, especially after 2018 started off as one of the driest years on record. At Ernie Els Wines we are very blessed to have bountiful water on the Helderberg. We were, however, still careful with our water use during the summer months leading up to harvest. We’ve also been working hard to adapt our viticultural techniques during the past three years to help the vineyards cope optimally with the heat and limited irrigation. Vineyards are resilient plants and its natural instinct in drier years are to produce smaller bunches with smaller berries. Small berries is usually the start of a great wine and 2018 was no different.
A warm and dry, but moderate, ripening season meant that harvest started in the middle of February with Merlot, as per usual, arriving first. As custodians of all the berries arriving at the cellar, we were careful to not overwork the already small berries. The Merlot was soon followed by the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon with our last grapes picked towards the middle of April. The long stretched-out harvest season gave the grapes plenty of ‘hang time’ on the vineyards to develop complex flavours and reach optimal ripeness. Quality was shining through on all varieties, especially the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Even some of the young Cabernet blocks, with some of our new clones, were starting to show some true potential. Watch this space!
So, as the evenings started to cool down and the first hints of autumn arrived, most of our wines were pressed and the barrel-work started. The cellar team worked hard to carefully move the new 2018 wine batches from tank to barrel. We try to keep all our newly made wine batches separate for as long as possible, in order to give each batch of wine optimal time to develop and show its potential, before ultimately deciding on our final blends for each wines.
The start of winter, usually signals the start of new blends to be made up and prepped for bottling. The 2017 Big Easy Red and 2017 Big Easy Cabernet Sauvignon were the the first two wines to be blended in the cellar and excitement started to build as the amazing quality and complexity of the 2017 vintages started to show in these two wines. The 2017 Big Easy Red blend was definitely an immediate favourite for us and potential superstar wine.
We’ve settled into our winter routine of morning coffees to warm up, tasting barrels for blending, blending the new 2017 wines which seems to be exceptional all round and making sure the new blends make their way safely into bottle before being tucked away and awaiting release. The vineyard team will start pruning next week which already signals the start of the new growing season, but for now here in the Ernie Els Cellar, we’re keeping warm and enjoying the blissful process of crafting the splendid 2017 vintage wines.
2. Ernie Els Wines does the Grand Tour with Wine Spectator
Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour is an unforgettable wine tasting experience that features more than 240 of the world’s finest wineries from 15 different countries pouring their best bottles in three major cities. Only a selection of wines rated 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator are invited to attend the tour and this year we showcased the Ernie Els Signature 2012, which was rated 93 points. This year our very own Andrew Harris joined the tour, which started in Washington DC and marched on to the Big Apple before making its finale in Las Vegas.
“This showcase is a cross-section of some of the best wines on the planet and it is a huge privilege to be able to able to rub shoulders with winemakers of this calibre” says Andrew. “It is amazing to see the distance that guests will travel and the effort they make to get to these events. You can see it is all worthwhile for them by the look of satisfaction on their faces after tasting something sublime or discovering something new.”
Wine Spectator is one of the world’s leading authorities on wine and is anchored by Wine Spectator magazine, a print publication that reaches around three million readers worldwide and also encompasses the web’s most comprehensive wine site (WineSpectator.com), mobile platforms and a series of signature events. Wine Spectator examines the world of wine from the vineyard to the table, exploring wine’s role in contemporary culture and delivering expert reviews of more than 16,000 wines each year.
The Ernie Els Signature is described as “a dark, alluring style, with gunpowder tea and warm ganache notes underscoring the core of steeped red and blackcurrant fruit. Features a singed cedar and alder frame, accented by a tobacco hint.” – 93 Points, ($95).
3. Ernie Els Wines commences renovations: Tasting Room & Cellar closed temporarily
After the 18th harvest of Ernie Els Wines the winery was excited to commence with some eagerly anticipated renovations on 1 July 2018. Due to these extensive works, the cellar and tasting room are therefore closed and will re-open approximately October 2019.
“For the past 18 years we have been focused on producing refined red wines which really showcase what the Helderberg and our particular terroir has to offer. Every year we make small changes in our vineyards and winemaking techniques in our quest to always improve and now the time has come for us to make the big changes in the cellar”, says Louis Strydom, Winemaker for all 18 vintages and MD at Ernie Els Wines for close to a decade.
“The cellar will actually reduce in size and allow us to really focus on our flagship wines, the Signature and Proprietors, and allow us to work with small micro batches of vineyard pockets. This is extremely exciting for me as it will allow us to really showcase the incredible work done in the vineyards and show what our terroir is capable of.”
The estate has 11 different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon planted on its 70 hectares and each block and row is specifically farmed to ensure that its best expression is brought into the cellar. The new cellar will now be able to preserve these specific expressions and profiles and slowly coax them into the bottle.
As part of the project, the team will be overhauling the tasting room and adding a brand new 120-seat restaurant with breathtaking vistas over Stellenbosch and all the way to Lions Head and Table Mountain.
“Wine will be the focus and the hero of the entire project, so the restaurant and its offering will be created to celebrate and compliment the wines,” adds Louis. “We will create a vinoteque that showcases a full library of all of our vintages and visitors can expect to see several vintages of wines available to enjoy with their meal.”
It will be business as usual, however, for the Ernie Els Wines team and the wines will still be available through their extensive network of distributors worldwide. Contrary to previous reports, the Ernie Els brand will continue ad perpetuum and this project is designed to take the brand and the wines to the next level in terms of quality and its visitor experience. As one of the most widely recognized ultra-premium South African wine brands around the world it is difficult not to share in the excitement of what is to come.
4. Tom Mills is our new International Marketing Manager
Tom joined us in July and comes from a strong wine marketing background, having joined the industry some 12 years ago and worked his way up through the ranks with a selection of high quality wineries within South Africa.
Tom is hugely passionate about wine, which is backed up by several wine qualifications including an advanced accreditation from the WSET in London and the Cape Wine Academy in Stellenbosch. This combined with his years of working with high-end restaurants and bespoke wine shops is the perfect combination to ensure that Ernie Els Wines continues to reach our discerning customers around the world.
“I have known Tom for a number of years and have always been impressed by his passion for wine and his dedication to ensuring that his brands are positioned and available in the best possible outlets,” says Louis Strydom. “We welcome him to the team and look forward to him sharing with us this exciting new era.”