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A time to reflect on the past 18 years

Spring 2016 marks the 18th vintage that we, the De Toren winemaking team, have been pursuing our dream and daily passion for crafting some of the world’s finest wines.

De Toren started with a singular wine, one born from a vision to reflect our unique terroir through a fusion, i.e. a blend of the five noble grape varieties of Bordeaux. Today our Fusion V is in good company, amongst 4 of the other Bordeaux vineyards, each reflecting a different personality of our 21 ha vineyards.

Reminiscing about the past 18 years of crafting award-winning wines, one of the key pillars to our success can surely be ascribed to the consistency that we have been able to achieve over nearly two decades. No two vintages are the same, and just as nature can provide amply, it can be profoundly relentless. It is in the latter vintages that the true character of one’s terroir is amplified.

We have always been of the opinion that intense focus, meticulous attention to detail and progressive innovation breeds consistency, both in the vineyards and the cellar. As such we have always adhered to these principles and have been at the forefront of innovation, as only perfection will do…

  • We left no stone unturned in our pursuit to provide each and every bunch with the perfect microclimate. This included in-depth soil analyses by precisely mapping each soil type and matching these to specific rootstocks and handpicked clones of the five Bordeaux varietals.
  • Our vineyard caretakers have an obsession with attaining perfect fruit. These ten ladies continually attend to each vine’s individual needs with the most observant, yet delicate of touches.
  • In ensuring the perfect vine balance at any given phenological growing stage, we were one of the first vineyards to implement a plant based, water measuring system, using the Scholander pressure chamber. This allows us to accurately manage the vines’ hydration levels in order to grow the best possible grapes.
  • The use of NDVI imagery was a further innovation implemented by De Toren in the early days of this technological application in vineyards. This helped us to distinguish between micro locations within our vineyards, rendering unique grapes. This defines the precision we harvest with to this very day.
  • Once above mentioned locations have been defined, we have four methods running simultaneously to monitor and evaluate the ripening of our grapes, each enabling us to make the best possible decision with regards to harvesting the grapes at the absolute point of complexity.
  • Our harvesting and selection process evolved to a level where each and every berry goes through an intense selection and sorting process, allowing only the best of the best berries to eventually contribute towards one of our signature, handcrafted wines.

Winemaking has also evolved over the years, although the roots of our philosophy are still very much imbedded in the thought that human intervention and manipulation should never interfere in the expression of terroirs and vintages. We have always tried to respect this notion to the utmost degree.

  • At conception it was decided that De Toren would be a 100% gravity facilitated cellar, barring mechanical pumps as ‘elements of torture’. This was to be so deeply entrenched in our DNA that ‘De Toren’ (Dutch translation for the words ‘The Tower’) was to form the focal point of our cellar; its silhouette seen from the outside, a daily reminder of the tender approach needed to craft our renowned wines. 18 Years later, gravity is still the best and most elusive way of moving wines, so much so that numerous South African cellars has adopted this philosophy in recent times.
  • Open top tanks are still used, but our tanks are specifically designed to allow for the best possible skin to juice ratios, enabling us to better define how to express the true character of each micro locations as harvested in the vineyards.
  • The use of selective yeasts, both native and cultivated is used to build the complexity in our wines.
  • Post fermentation maceration, i.e. leaving the wines and skins in the tank after fermentation, has led to richer, much more integrated wines, especially in our Merlots – a direct contribution noticeable in the quality of our well-known De Toren Z, specifically.
  • To this day we are still using a traditional styled basket press – definitely one of the gentlest ways to work with your wines. This technique demands the undivided attention of the winemaker, a component that goes a long way in sculpting the perfect structure in one’s wines.
  • Barrel ageing has been a refining process for the past 18 vintages, each allowing us to make better selection of coopers, the oak forests used and the toasting regimes that best complement our wines.

Our incessant quest for perfection took a giant leap forward in the year 2010, with the inception of Book XVII, followed by the maiden vintage of The Black Lion in 2012. The goal we set ourselves was to yield the ultimate quality from our vineyards, challenging customary limitations set in popular beliefs, both in terms of viticulture and winemaking.

The result was a wine micro-vinified from grapes, perfectly grown with a very specific wine in mind. These grapes derive from a specific soil type; only using the most balanced vines, rendering a load of no more than 6 bunches. These bunches are picked at the pinnacle of intensity and complexity, then destemmed by hand and transferred into the finest, new French oak barrels, where the barrels are fermented using a technique called fermentation integral. The winemaking team rotates these barrels every two hours during this period, to constantly keep the juice in contact with the skins.

After two months of fermentation, the wines are gently strained, removing all skins, to return to the French Oak barrels for another 20 months of ageing before the blending process starts.

These wines are such a labour of love, involving all of the expertise and innovations obtained over the past 18 vintages, that the packaging was specially designed to involve the client in the final stages of unveiling this spectacular wine.

We have achieved so much in the last 18 years, but we will always be striving for more in our relentless pursuit of perfection…

 

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