Vineyards & Terroir

Great wine is made in the vineyard

Kleinood is a small farm of just twelve hectares of arable land. Ten hectares are devoted to vines while the remaining two are under olive trees.

When Gerard de Villiers purchased this unique property in 2000 there were no vines on the farm. Extensive soil tests were conducted involving more than 150 inspection and sampling pits on the 13 hectares available for cultivation. These tests showed up different clay-based soil types – Tukulu, Kroonstad, Klapmuts and Witfontein. Based on the results from these exhaustive tests combined with meticulous monitoring of weather patterns and sun and wind directions the farm was divided into 23 half-hectare blocks. The soil was then deep ploughed and prepared for planting.

Terroir dictated that Shiraz be the variety of choice with a hectare, each of Viognier and Mouvèrdre for blending purposes. Tamboerskloof Viognier and Tamboerskloof Katharien Syrah Rosé have both subsequently become much sought after and highly acclaimed wines. It is pure chance that these are also Gerard’s favourite wines. “We preferred to veer away from the traditional South African and Argentinean Shiraz clones commonly planted in the Cape Wine lands. “This was mainly due to the fact that they were not certified to be virus free, and we weren’t entirely satisfied with the wine styles resulting from them,” explains Gerard.

Patience and perseverance were crucial at this critical stage. “We were subsequently able to source Rhône Syrah clones 174, 300, 470 and 747 from a laboratory that planned to generate budding eyes from scrapings made from the mother plants and propagated in a laboratory. These were guaranteed to be virus free, but we would have to wait an extra year.

In order to save time, the course of action involved planting the rootstocks for later field grafting of the clonal buds. This involved a meticulous process of varying the rootstock type, the planting row widths, the plant spacing in the rows and the row directions to suit the terroir. The wild rootstock vines were allowed to grow vigorously under regular irrigation for a year, thus creating a strong root system. A year after planting the rootstock vines everything above the ground was cut off generating an incredible amount of vegetable matter. Two shoots were allowed to grow from the stump and the shoots were tied to the first wire.

A special grafting team grafted the four different clones onto both the shoots for each vine. The clonal splits in the various blocks were based on the soil characteristics and vigour potential of the soil, as well as the rootstock. After a few months it was decided which of the two shoots was the stronger, while the other was removed, thus allowing all the energy from a strong root system to feed the single shoot. Not only were these virus free vines, it was the first time that Syrah grapes from these clones had been made commercially available in South Africa.

Due to our viticultural philosophy and practise of dividing the farm into tiny vineyard blocks we were able to confirm that block 7 was in a league of its own and gave us our top Syrah year after year.  Gunter “drilled down” into this block and eventually identified a portion of the half-hectare block 7 where the elusive grapes stood. Thus the John Spicer Syrah 2009 was born – a truly handcrafted wine in every sense of the word.

"Each half-hectare block on the farm is managed as a separate unit and has its own individual irrigation system."