Franschhoek can almost be too quaint, too pretty as a wine region. The wineries are dotted along the main road – the only road – along the valley like pearls on a string. They are surrounded by beautiful real estate developments where the villas have stunning views over the mountains. The village of Franschhoek itself is a paradise for weekending Cape Towners with its charming restaurants, bars, and gift shops.
But take one of the roads leading off the valley floor and you quickly reach more wild, almost deserted landscapes.
One of those roads leads up to the Robertsvlei Vally where you find the Glenwood Vineyards. It is certainly worth the ten minute detour from the village. On your way up the asphalt road changes to a dirt road. A few tracks lead up to the mountain peaks. You might see the traces of a forest fire. They are not uncommon in this area.
Arriving at the Glenwood winery you pass over a small bridge and then the last few hundred meters take you through the vineyards to the winery. There is also a restaurant, well worth visiting too.
If you are lucky you might be greeted by “DP” Burger, the winemaker who has been in charge of the winery for twenty five years. The property was bought a few years before DP arrived, in 1986, by Alastair Wood a South African business man. At that time the whole of Franschhoek must have seemed remote and launching a quality oriented winery must have been a challenge.
There is a small river running through this isolated valley. Although the distance to the main Franschhoek valley is only seven kilometres the climate is quite different. It is about five degrees cooler and rain is abundant in winter. They get as much as 1600 mm a normal year.
Here are a few videos with DP Burger talking about his winery and explaining his wines.
Introduction: Glenwood Vineyard in Franschhoek with DP Burger
Is climate, soil or winemaker the most important? Well, winemaking is 99% terroir, says DP. There are limits to what you can do in the cellar. If you don’t have good fruit, you can’t make good wine.. You can’t really separate climate from terroir. Climate is important. You can have perfect soil but if you don’t have the right climate it won’t work.
And a bit of history on South African wine making. After apartheid finished there was huge demand for red wines so everyone started to plant cabernet and syrah. Not always on the right soils.
When to pick the grapes? At Glenwood Vineyards
There are many factors that are taken into account when deciding when to harvest: the taste of the grapes, analytics (measurement of eg sugar), gut feeling etc. Taste is especially important for some grape varieties. The analytics is an important indication of the phenolic ripeness.
The beautiful landscape: Wine Touring Visiting Glenwood Vineyards
Glenwood Vineyards is a winery in the Franschhoek district. The winemaker and boss is DP Burger. It is a relatively small vineyard focused on making high quality wines. They work mainly with sauvignon blanc, semillon, and chardonnay for the whites and merlot and syrah for the red wines.
Glenwood Vineyards unoaked chardonnay
DP Burger, winemaker, on the Glenwood Vineyards’ unoaked chardonnay. The wine is made in stainless steel tanks only, no barrels, but with some winery work to make it more interesting, like stirring of the lees. It is a refreshing aromatic chardonnay.
Glenwood Vigneron Selection Chardonnay
Glenwood Vineyards winemaker DP Burger talks about the Vigneron Selection Chardonnay. It has spent 12 months in new French oak barrels. They make three styles of chardonnay: unoaked, Vigneron selection that is in oak one year, and Grand Duc that has spent two years in barrel. The wine is very food orientated. They do malolactic fermentation but the citrusy character is still there.
Glenwood Grand Duc Chardonnay, oak barrels, organic growing
Glenwood Grand Duc Chardonnay presented by winemaker DP Burger. The Glenwood Grand Duc Chardonnay is made from the oldest vineyards on the farm, planted in 1983, that now has extremely low yields. They planned to uproot it due to the low yields but it won a five star in Platter so they decided to keep it. It spends 24 months in new French oak.
Glenwood Merlot explained by DP Burger, the winemaker. Made in a selection of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th use barrels. DP Burger wants it to have a fruit driven style, not overpowered by oak. The berries are fermented in open-top containers. Manual punch down (piegage) is done frequently, and the wine is left to ferment until finished. The fermentation is done without temperature control so it can go up to around 30 C.
Glenwood Vineyards winemaker DP Burger talks about his Shiraz (2014 vintage). It is made to be supple and juicy, spicy, made to drink young, but you can age it 8-10 years. It is aged 18 months in 100% second fill barrels. Works perfectly with a 500g rumpstake. It is made (like the merlot) made in open top fermentation. Juicy, spicy. DP certainly doesn’t want make over-extracted wines and this is very much made with the fruit in focus.
Glenwood Syrah Grand Duc
DP Burger, winemaker at Glenwood, talks about his Glenwood Syrah Grand Duc 2014. This wine was previously made by bought in grapes, in order to have grapes from old vines, at least 20 years old. From 2015 it is 100% own grapes since their own vineyard has now reached sufficient age. DP only uses wild yeast, zero filtration or very light filtration, only 1200 bottles. DP then leaves it for 24 months in 100% new French oak.
Glenwood’s new Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon cuvée
Glenwood winemaker DP Burger presents a new Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend 2016 that was launched early 2017. The previous year they had five stars in Platter for a 75% semillon 25% sauvignon, barrel fermented and barrel aged. Their new cuvee is an effort to bring forward the sauvignon blanc even more. They have previously also made a fresh and flinty sauvignon blanc, but not that perhaps does not bring forward sauvignons most exciting qualities. DP then started looking on a blend with more sauvignon and some sémillon. It is a 50 / 50 sauvignon-semillon. The sauvignon is made with reductive winemaking to bring out the flintiness, the semillon is made in an oxidative way. Released the wine early 2017, the first vintage 2016.
Nobel rot Semillon, Glenwood Noblesse
Glenwood winemaker DP Burger presents a rare Semillon cuvee. The wine is late harvest noble rot and a blend of the 2013 and 2014 vintage. Doing the noble rot semillon didn’t work in 2015 or 2016. DP will also try and make it in 2017, weather will determine if it is a success. It is a very late harvest with very low yields. Hand-picked, labour intensive, harvested around mid April.90-95 litres per ton compared to 600 litres for a normal grape pressing. DP made only 3 barrels in 2013 and 3 in 2014. The wine is a blend of the two. It has 160 grams per litre residual sugar and 8.5 g natural acidity. The grape blend is mainly semillon with 20 % sauvignon blanc and a tiny bit of noval. To be allowed to call it noble rot late harvest it must have a balling (brix) of over 32 according to the rules (which is a minimum of 17.7 baumé, or 17.7% potential alcohol).
There are many, many hidden gems like this in South Africa, if you know where to look. Come here and experience the excellent wines, the spectacular landscapes, and the delicious food on a wine tour to South Africa with BKWine.
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