The Sugarbush vineyard planted on the north western slopes of the farm was the final Sauvignon Blanc to be harvested. Sugar will be picked today at an approximate balling of 23.1 and in fantastic condition, filled with stunning flavours.
Fermentation will begin on Wednesday in a stainless steel tank. In about 10-14 days the wine will be completely dry but will remain on the fine lees until bottling.
What does Sugar do now?
The day a vineyard is harvested, the next vintage begins. The stress of ripening the grapes can take a lot out of a vine. Immediately after the bunches are picked, water and nutrients are given to the vine. The goal is to replenish energy stores and keep the canopy green and healthy for as long as possible as the days get shorter and colder with winter approaching. The work for the 2023 vintage has just concluded for Sugar, but now the vine is hard at work on the next vintage already.
How about Spice?
Veraison has now concluded in the Syrah vineyards but this later-ripening cultivar is still busy building up sugars in the berries. By our estimates, we have another 2-3 weeks before Spice is harvested.
With a few rain storms in the forecast and the iconic Cape Agulhas sea fog sitting in the vineyards each morning, this is the part of harvest where the winemakers become quite anxious. Balancing ripeness with the health of the fruit is key.
The last visit with these two vines was during flowering. This is a critical time that usually comes with a good amount of stress for our vineyard team. Here in Cape Agulhas, winds and rain are frequent during this time of the year which can be disastrous for pollination.
Fortunately, fruit set was a success and the culmination of every vineyard stage from the day the 2022 crop was picked until now has arrived: veraison.
Veraison is the clearest sign that harvest is near. Even more, it’s the first real window a winemaker gets to look into the quality of the vintage.
In red cultivars this stage is quite clear. Berries begin to change from green to pink to purple. In white cultivars the bunches go from a darker green to a lighter, more translucent hue.
What exactly is veraison?
Veraison is when fruit ripening begins. Now through harvest time, the vineyards will focus all of their energy on ripening the hanging bunches. With each warm day, sugars will rise. Simultaneously, acidities will drop. This is also the time when phenolic ripening occurs. Color, tannin, flavor and aroma compounds are all starting to develop in the grapes.
In cool climate Cape Agulhas, veraison happens later than in the rest of the country. It is also a longer process as sugars rise slowly and natural acidities remain strong. This longer hangtime is what allows our grapes to achieve full phenolic ripeness which ultimately provides our wines with stunning aromatics, vibrancy, and well-rounded mouthfeel.
Challenges of Veraison
Once viable fruit is hanging in the vineyards, the biggest challenge is keeping it healthy. Sun, rain, humidity, wind, etc can all damage and bring disease to a block.
The other major challenge from this stage forward is wildlife. Many animals including birds and baboons love this time of year as sugars rise in the grapes. Even a single peck on just one berry by a bird can ruin the entire bunch.
The only real solution for these challenges is to be active and vigilant in the vineyards from sun up til sundown.
Our friend Sugar here is probably about 4 weeks away from harvest time and Spice is about 8 away. However, harvest may begin for MCC base wines as early as next week for us.
There are few things more valuable than consistency when it comes to wine. Especially in a challenging and unpredictable region like Cape Agulhas, the ability to craft beautiful wines with steady, incremental improvement vintage after vintage is key. It shows mastery of both vineyard and winery. And it serves as the most important indicator that a farm and winemaking team are in sync.
Since the establishment of our winery on the farm 5 years ago, creating the highest level of consistency has been priority. With projects like Seven Rows, we’ve pushed and explored all options to better understand every single row of vines on the farm, improve our farming practices, and articulate these results each year in the winery to build on them for the next.
The 2023 Platter’s results have been a wonderful reinforcement that all of this effort is paying off.
Every Single Vineyard wine submitted scored 90+ points and nearly every single Seven Rows wine did the same.
The highest blocks on the farm, these two vineyards are side-by-side atop a southeast facing slope overlooking the dam. The only difference between the two? Soil. With the Pincushion in a red, rocky, iron-rich Koffieklip soil and the Sugarbush in a fast-draining sandy loam soil – these two wines are stunningly different from one another. Fermented and matured in stainless steal to maintain purity of fruit, these two wines are of the most complex and most bold white wines we make. They are a pure, untethered expression of Cape Agulhas Sauvignon Blanc. They make for a phenomenal food pairing wine and to the surprise of many, they age beautifully.
Cool climate Syrah is quickly on the rise both here in South Africa and around the world. Red fruit, soft tannin, elegance and finesse drive the way for a cultivar known to many as big, bold, and sometimes overbearing. Similar to the Sauvignon Blanc, these two unbelievably expressive blocks of vineyard share only one difference: soil. Both on the nose and the palate, the differences created by this single variable are immense. While tasting next to eachother, one is really able to appreciate the importance of terroir.
These small-batch, incredibly premium wines represent the best of the best of what our farm has to offer. Through a variety of technology and years and years of experimentation, each vine utilised for this range of wines is selected, tended to and harvested by hand.
On average, only 100-200 cases of each is produced. Because of this, Seven Rows remains available EXCLUSIVELY to Lomond Cellar Club Members. Look out for an email from our sales team soon on the next club member release.
With the temperatures increasing, and the sun welcoming us a little earlier each morning, Spring is upon us. Pincushions are in full bloom on the lower slopes of the conservancy, and the sugarbirds are shouting their territorial tunes as they prance from flower to flower sipping sweet nectar. Nearly two thirds of the fynbos blooms during the spring months, making adventures during these months incredibly rewarding.
Spring is a glorious time in the Cape, the winter rainfalls breath life into the landscape. Streams are flowing, humming with cacophony of frogs. Chicks are getting ready to fledge before the summer fire season sets in, an adaption that has co-adapted over time to mitigate the risk of losing young to fires.
The first of the orchids, Disperis capensis & Liparis capensis, have already made their appearance and are only a taste of the shear geophytic diversity which comes during early spring, with the peak of the orchid season arriving in October. Some of the unique bulbs such as Gladiolus overbergensis only make an appearance for the first-year post fire and remain dormant in the soil until the next event. Keep your eyes peeled for the red & yellow Gladioli in sandstone areas that have recently burnt. Other Gladioli that have started to make their appearance include Gladiolus debilis (little painted lady), Gladiolus variegatus & Gladiolus bullatus (the Caledon bluebell). Mountain tops are scattered with bursts of orange from the mountain dahlia (Liparia splendens) and are favoured by the endemic orange breasted sunbird searching for nectar, before ripened seeds are transported away by ants who safely store them underground away from predation.
The famous African daisies put on a colourful display along the firebreaks, luring monkey beetles to come and visit. A site one would only expect to see on the West Coast. The flowers are blooming, and it’s time to get moving.
A welcomed snore
The winter rains have resulted in some beautiful choruses heard throughout the fynbos, from the eternally unimpressed rain frogs to the southern dainty frogs. A very welcome return this year was the western leopard toad (Sclerophrys pantherina). A large, beautiful frog found breeding in the deep dams in and around the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy. Unlike our clicking stream frogs, these toads return to their breeding sites for a very small window between August and September each year. If the explosion of flowering in the fynbos is not the only queue to go by, these loud, snoring western leopard toads will definitely let you know that spring is on its way.
The western leopard toad occurs from the Cape Peninsula to our area here in the Walker Bay region. They are mostly found in coastal, lowland areas in the winter rainfall zone. But why is this toad so special, when we have 15 different species in the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy? The western leopard toad is a threatened amphibian, classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List criteria. Their main threats include a reduction in the areas where they occur, for instance, they have gone extinct at certain localities, most notably areas between the Cape Peninsula and the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy with only 11 localities left. In addition, their populations have become fragmented resulting in small, isolated populations that are too far apart for toads to disperse to or from, causing a genetic cul-de-sac. A further threat is a decline in habitat quality in their remaining environments, predominantly due to urban and commercial development and alien invasive species.
Fortunately, a lot of frog-loving conservationists have shed a big light on this toad, especially during its breeding season, when they have to cross busy roads to get to their breeding dams – which they return to every year. Road mortalities are a major concern, with many flattened western leopard toads found at busy intersections during August and September. Unfortunately, not all these breeding sites are in pristine fynbos far from traffic. So, always, but most importantly during the August and September months, be on the lookout for these precious hoppers and remember that we will always want to hear their snore this time of the year, us and all the generations to come. So, brake for toads!
Camera trapping in the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy
Wildlife monitoring across the WBFC has taken place in many shapes and forms. With our most recent collaborative project being part of the Tale of Two Leopards Survey in collaboration with the Cape Leopard Trust. Of 86 camera trap stations strategically set up in the Southern Overberg, we assisted with 24 stations within the WBFC and surrounding areas ranging from Crystal kloof, Raka wines, Baardskeerdersbos, to Pearly Beach. Within the survey period of almost 4 months, we determined the presence of at least 10 different leopards within the WBFC. Some of these are resident individuals with established home ranges, while other younger individuals were dispersing through the landscape. A minimum of 3 breeding females occur within our survey area, and have all three been recorded with cubs in 2022.
While this project is focused on leopard home ranges and their corridor utilisation, there is plenty of additional information we can gather about their prey species availability and threats in the landscape. The project has allowed us to expand our reach within the region through networking with landowners and other conservation partners.
In collaboration with the Cape Leopard Trust, Endangered Wildlife Trust and Grootbos Foundation, we are building on what has been called the Agulhas Green Corridor. This conservation initiative is focused on linking formally protected areas within the Agulhas Plain with a network of ecologically functioning corridors for movement of wildlife, pollinators and seed dispersers in order to maintain genetic diversity within populations of our plants and animals of the area. If animals are not able to disperse between areas, they become isolated within conservation areas. This leads to inbreeding depression and ultimately extinction. Our aim is to engage with private landowners within these vital linkages, using Leopards and Leopard toads as flagship species in order to secure a connected environment for a thriving and healthy ecosystem to persist.
For more information on the Tale of Two Leopards initiative, follow the link below.
Bud break is upon us and thus another growing season begins here on the slopes of Lomond. A slightly more temperate winter has the vines coming back to life right on schedule as compared to the delay we experienced in 2021.
As discussed in Pt 1, Syrah is an early-budding cultivar, where as Sauvignon Blanc is quite late. The above photos illustrate this well as one can see only a few tiny leaves on Sugar whereas Spice already have short 3-4cm shoots developing.
What exactly is bud break and what causes it?
The increase in sunshine and warmer temps causes water and stored nutrients to begin flowing up the vines trunk towards dormant buds. The buds begin to swell creating small, hard nodules on the vine. Until finally, they burst.
Small green grape leaves find their way to the sunshine and the growing season is officially underway. In just a few weeks, these tiny leaves will be long shoots, filled with full size leaves.
During this time, shoots can grow as much as 2.5cm per day.
Terroir, cultivar, and microclimates can all affect the timing of these different stages across the farm. But still, one of the biggest factors is the cultivar itself.
At this very moment, the vineyards are still sparse. However, in just 10 more days they will be exploding with long, energy-producing shoots. When you look across each block of vineyard you will not see any wood. Instead, it will be a sea of green as they prepare for the next step: flowering.
We have all seen vineyards at different parts of the year. For a few months they are just sticks, whereas the rest of the year it may just look like a sea of green leaves. Sometimes there may be a team of workers on foot busy in a block, other times it may be a lone tractor driving down the rows.
But what is actually going on in the vineyard all year? Is it as simple as sticks >>> leaves >>> grapes >>> wine?
Like anything worth dedicating oneself to, the lifecycle of a vine is complex and fascinating. There are decisions being made every single day to not only help the current years crop, but the overall health and success of each vine for vintages to come.
To take you along on the journey of the vines for a growing season we’d like to introduce you to Sugar and Spice.
Sugar is a 22 year old Sauvignon Blanc vine planted on one of the highest slopes on the farm in our registered single vineyard Sugarbush block. Sugar is located 8 rows from the lower northeast corner of the block, 5 vines up.
Spice is also 22 years old but is a Syrah vine located in the sandy soil on the flatter, lower, opposite side of the dam. Spice is 10 rows down from the northeast corner and 6 vines up.
We’ll be following both vines throughout the 2023 vintage from bud break, to harvest, and back into winter.
Today, we have just finished the first major task to take place in the vineyards for the growing season: pruning.
Pruning is done every year, typically in late winter for us. It is the method of cutting back canes/bearers to aid in the shape, vigour, and crop of each vine for the coming growing season.
At Lomond, all 130ha of vineyard are pruned by hand. It’s a serious endeavour, but the precision and vine-by-vine discretion our skilled team takes with them into each block of vineyard is unmatched. And it is this process that sets the foundation for the 2023 crop to begin growing on.
This process is affecting everything from the size and quantity of bunches a vine will grow, how the vine utilises the trellis, how the vine will be able to withstand things like wind/rain/humidity, and much more.
During pruning, there are many factors being taken into consideration, and a very critical one is timing. Pruning early aids in growth of the vine for the coming year. Whereas pruning later aids in fertility and therefore helps to yield a larger crop. Finding the perfect pruning time for each block of vineyard is key.
Typically Spice is harvested about 6-8 weeks after Sugar. However, Spice was pruned 1st week of September whereas Sugar was only pruned the 3rd week and is of the last of the vines on the farm to be pruned. The main reason for this is the bud timing between these cultivars.
Bud break tends to reach Syrah early in the season whereas Sauvignon Blanc is a late budding cultivar.
With the first major task of 2023 out of the way, we now hand the reigns back over to Mother Nature.
As the days become longer and warmer, bud break is sure to be just around the corner. Once the first small leaves begin to burst from the vines these seemingly barren blocks of vines will soon be transformed to fields of green. We will check back in soon to take a closer look.
Below is a wildlife report from Lomond Wine Estate, compiled by Mike Fabricius of the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy:
Project Ingwe is a specific wildlife monitoring project aimed at creating an understanding of the larger mammal species occupying the Walker Bay region. Creating a baseline species list and localized distribution maps, we can monitor changes and trends over time. A good example of this would be the recent influx of African Bushpig. While they were known historically in the area, they were pushed out through land transformation and hunting.
Some suggest that bushpig have gone undetected for the last century, while some suggest a recent range expansion due to conservation corridor establishment, dense vegetation and a drop in hunting pressure. While this may be good news for the larger predators of the conservancy, it is important to monitor the occurrence and the potential for population explosion as has been noted in many wild pig species.
The project is conducted in a grid fashion, with a camera trap station near the center of each 5km2grid. A camera trap is a remote sensing monitoring tool that triggers when a subject moves within its detection range. It can be set to take videos, but in this case, the camera is set to take still images, with an incandescent flash used to illuminate the subject at night.
We have found that the flash does not disturb animals or deter them from the monitoring site. The cameras are set at about knee height on well used paths, in order to maximize potential for species detection. The grid allows for even spacing and variation in habitat types. Lomond as an example has two monitoring sites, one in a mountainous conservation servitude area (an area set aside by the landowners for conservation in perpetuity), and the other is in the middle of the vineyards and considered a modified agricultural zone. We have noted some interesting similarities and differences between these two sites. By analysing the data using statistical methods, we can answer many questions on where species occur. The below pictures were all captured in the mountainous servitude area of Lomond, made up of pristine natural vegetation.
The camera station in the vineyards, the center of an agricultural zone of the conservancy, has produced some interesting and rather different results as was expected. The species that overlap and occur in both pristine and agricultural environments include bushpig and common duiker.
We were delighted with a brand new species record for the conservancy, the Cape fox.
Other species that have been recorded in the agricultural zone include: Bat-eared fox, African wildcat, caracal, cape fox and scrub hare.
Many species are well adapted to the pristine and natural areas ecosystems, and others are better adapted in human-modified systems. Bat-eared fox is a good example of a species that prefers the softer soils that agricultural landscapes provide for foraging of insects and other invertebrates. This shows that while one of the major threats to our biodiversity is agricultural development, well established and ethically managed agricultural zones can facilitate a host of different species than what is found in pristine environments. It is vital for economic and ecotourism benefits that ethical agricultural practice remains in place, but this must be balanced with conservation, building corridors that link protected areas and allocating land for long term conservation management.
We have long believed Cape Agulhas has the potential to produce some of the highest quality Syrah in the world. Still, beliefs like this take a backseat each vintage when we set our goals.
The focus for us is never to make a wine that is better than any other producer or region. Rather, our single goal, year after year, is to produce a wine better than we produced in the previous vintage.
Our changes and improvements each year are always small. But it is the sum of these micro corrections over years and years that have allowed for tremendous understanding of our Syrah vineyards, fruit, and ultimately the wines we are producing.
If one goes back and looks at our single vineyard Syrah’s, Estate Syrah, or our Belladonna SMV you’ll notice consistent Bronze/Silver ratings 15 years ago. Over the last 8 years they have become consistently Silver/Gold. And in the last 5 years these wines are receiving Gold, Double Gold, and low 90’s across all of your most popular contests and critics.
A point best illustrated with the first Platter 5 Star Syrah (the 2018 Conebush Syrah) and most recently with the 2019 Belladonna SMV Blend taking the win at the 2022 Shiraz Challenge as the best Shiraz-based Blend in SA.
Well-known wine writer Michael Fridjhon summed up this value in consistency beautifully in a recent piece on The Trophy Wine Show:
Lomond’s Belladonna Rhone-style blends saw both the 2018 and 2019 in a dead heat on 92 (mid-silver). That kind of consistency in performance suggests it’s a cellar worth tracking over the longer term.
For people who like to believe that wine shows produce their results on little more than the spin of a roulette wheel, this level of consistency tells another story. But for wine drinkers who seek reliability, and the confidence of knowing that fine winemaking is not a fluke, the message here is inescapable.
We’ve never set out to make the best Syrah in the world. Year after year, we just focus on making a Syrah better than we did the vintage prior. Nearly 20 years later, this strategy is seeing some truly stunning wines coming out of the cellar.
For those interested in ordering our not-yet-released 2019 Belladonna SMV Blend, Cellar Club Members will have a pre-release offer coming their way before the end of the week – be sure to check your inbox.
With harvest behind us and the winter rains moving in, it is an ideal time to safely provide fynbos with a critical element of its survival: fire.
Despite making up less than 1% of Africa, the Cape Floral Kingdom makes up over 20% of the continents flora species. There are over 9600 plant species here with 70% of them being found nowhere else in the world.
The slopes of Ben Lomond mountain, the peak the farm was named after, are home to the critically endangered Elim Ferricrete Fynbos and Overberg Sandstone Fynbos.
The 18 hectares just above our Sugarbush and Pincushion Sauvignon Blanc vineyards was the first parcel of land from a South African wine farm to ever be entered into a Conservation Servitude with Fauna and Flora International. Because of this, even if Lomond was sold tomorrow this piece of land and the very rare fynbos within it would still be safe from development.
However, simply protecting from agricultural expansion is not enough.
Most fynbos is fire-dependent. This means it requires fire to be able to release its seeds and reproduce. Fires that are too frequent can prevent plants from reaching maturity and therefore germination. Whereas a lack of fire can also deplete seed reserves as the plants eventually succumb to old age.
Therefore, the best reproductive and genetic success for fynbos can be aided by a fire every 10-15 years.
With the help of the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservation, the first controlled burn on the Lomond Conservation Servitude has just taken place. All 18 hectares were carefully ignited with teams surrounding every edge of the burn.
And with the help of winter rains, the scorched patch is already bursting with green new life just days later.
One of the things that makes fynbos so special is that it does not exist anywhere else in the world. This same fact is why it is so important for us to cherish and conserve this beautiful place.
22 years ago the very first vine went into the ground on Lomond.
Our goal from the outset remains unchanged; to create South Africa’s finest cool climate wines which are comparable to the best in the world.
The pursuit of quality is, by definition, incremental and perpetual.
Over decades, we have studied every slope on the farm, identifying 18 different soil types and where they lie within the vineyards. Trials have been conducted including different pruning techniques, cover crops and irrigation methods to determine the most effective regime to produce quality grapes.
We harvest not by block, but per soil type. This ensures optimum ripeness and preserving each sections unique flavours. We can accurately identify the distinctive characteristics that terroir imparts.
Utilising satellite imagery and boots on the ground, we monitor vigour, growth and ripeness. Varying terroir creates microclimates within each vineyard block.
Within each block there are rows of vines which have flavour compounds which are exceptional. These rows are vinified separately and tasted over and over again in the pursuit of perfection.
We are delighted to present the 7 Rows Range which expresses the passion, craft and dedication of the team at Lomond.
The iconic Snowbush is returning to the Lomond family.
The last vintage of the wine was produced in 2013. This unique wine is a blend of wooded Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon & Viognier.
On the nose, the wine is showing complex floral and stone fruit notes with a hint of minerality. On the palate, the wine is soft, rounded and refined with layers of flavours of fruit and citrus notes. The presence of the oak supports the wine and adds complexity. The natural fresh acidity of this unique wine from Cape Agulhas adds a great liveliness to this wine.
This complexity and flavours come from very selective sourcing and obsessive attention to detail.
Only 800 bottles produced
A very gentle whole bunch pressing was used to ensure that only the best possible juice gets extracted from the grapes. Juice was fermented in 500L French oak barrels and then left on the lees, in barrel, for 11 months.
This wine is showing complex aromatics of lime, peach and white pear. On the palate, the wine is showing intense concentration of fruit. The zesty acidity gives this Semillon great freshness and a long lingering aftertaste.
Only 700 bottles produced
Viognier is a traditional Rhone variety that is perfectly suited to the cool climate of Lomond and Cape Agulhas.
Grapes were hand picked and whole bunch pressed using only the free run quality. The wine was fermented in 500L French oak barrels and matured in barrel for 11 months. Viognier is a varietal that benefits from barrel maturation which adds great complexity to the wine.
Viognier is as a very aromatic variety with hints of floral and sweet spice flavours.
On the palate, the wine is showing intense fruit with a firm acidity.
Only 700 bottles produced
Ben Nevis Sauvignon Blanc 2020
This wooded Sauvignon Blanc is made from a blend of our two Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Pincushion and Sugarbush.
The grapes underwent a 12-hour skin contact before being drained and gently pressed. Fermentation was started in stainless steel and after five days was then transferred to barrel to finish fermentation.
This classic Cape Agulhas Sauvignon Blanc shows white stone fruit with hints of blackcurrant and minerality. The wine expresses complexity with an explosion of fruit with great structure. The very subtle wood influence adds a beautiful roundness to the wine. The ability to age is ensured by crisp acidity