Vinpro and Winetech awarded Riebeek Cellars' wine producer, Wilhelm Relihan from Oak Valley Farm with the best Chardonnay block in the Swartland/Paarl region in the annual Vineyard Block Competition. The competition is presented annually in the various regions to identify, evaluate and share optimal vineyard practices with regard to the specific theme.
Wilhelm Relihan, Tharien Hansen and team (Image Supplied)
This award-winning block forms the basis of the Riebeek Cellars Collection Chardonnay. Riebeek Cellars’ wine team, including a full-time viticulturist, Tharien Hansen, works with their grape growers to sustainably develop varietals and sites that best harness the Swartland terroir and assures grapes of the finest quality that best translate the varietal characteristics.
“This is such an honour to receive this award. It is wonderful to get recognition for something that you have been working so hard for and put in special effort. To get acknowledgement for something that is part of me certainly helps to continue when times get tough. It is easier to carry on when you know you are on the right path, which makes it so much more worth it,” says Relihan.
The strengths of each winning block were highlighted during farm days in the various regions. The choice of the rootstock and clone for the specific area and winning goal is the first important step towards a winemaker-driven vineyard. After this, thorough soil preparation according to the soil type is needed so that the roots can distribute optimally and a suitable girdle system is chosen to accommodate the vines.
Wilhelm Relihan of Oak Valley Farm (Image Supplied)
“Ever since we planted this block, I had a special place for it and every year I slightly adjusted it to the good practices that are set out for premium class grapes. This year had its own unique challenges, with the management of vines and irrigation with limited water certainly the biggest challenge. With the limited irrigation water, I decided to pull the rootstock from the beginning before sprinkling again, but not to stress the rootstock at the critical stages of the growth phase. We broke out the leaves on the inner side of the cluster zone this year rather than on the outside which prevented the clusters from being exposed to direct sunlight," explains Relihan.
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