Farming with nature to produce energy and harmony in a bottle.
“Wine can hold the energy of its place of origin and its makers,” stated Jessica Saurwein, winemaker of her eponymous label, when talking about what drew her to wine.
Jessica focuses on her two favourite cultivars, pinot noir (of which she makes two) and a riesling. Since the brand’s inception in 2015 the wines have been critically acclaimed. The doyenne of the wine world, Jancis Robinson even cited the Chi Riesling 2019 as: “Possibly the best South African Riesling I have tasted.”.
A life’s adventure
How did she get here? “My love of nature, languages and travel encouraged me to set off on a gap year after school, working first in South Africa on a wine farm during harvest, and then travelling Europe. There I secured a stint as harvest assistant in one of France’s famous wine regions, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. After time spent in picturesque vineyards and late nights on rickety ladders, I knew that winemaking would be my life’s adventure.”
She went on to complete a BSc Oenology and Viticulture degree at Stellenbosch University, after which a period was spent in sales and marketing. “Four years down the line I felt an immense urge to get back into winemaking, and with the encouragement of my loved ones, produced my first pinot noir in 2015.
“The aim is to achieve energy and harmony in my wines. I believe one must keep the core of the wine as pure as possible by having a hands-off approach.”
“My family and I have been privileged enough to make a lifetime dream come true, of building up a small polyculture farm in Stanford and planting some vines here,” says Jessica, from her home of five years now, Waterval Farm in Stanford.
They’re aiming to have a finished wine cellar by the end of the year, and to start planting vines (pinot and riesling, naturally) from 2024. In the meantime the young family (they have two boys) have been busy preparing their farm under the principles of regenerative agriculture: from an interplanted vegetable garden to reviving soils that have been stripped by chemical farming – and adding a menagerie of animals.
“It’s really just trying to understand what is the best for the plant at what time,” comments Jessica. “Sure it’s a bit more complex than simply using chemicals. But if you farm with nature you’re going to have much more joy and far fewer input costs in the end. “Regenerative farming is a holistic, long term solution for better farming.”
Chi Riesling 2023
Grapes were hand-picked from two special Elgin sites and sorted. Wild ferment took place in stainless steel tanks for around six weeks until optimal residual sugar balance was achieved. Saurwein’s light touch in the cellar is evident in this buoyant wine. Beautifully aromatic and detailed with lime, green apples, blossom and peaches. These scents tug you in to the peachy-pineapple core, held delicately with a slight chalky texture and a halo of crisp lemon-lime fruit that radiates outwards. The finish, like lemon sorbet.
Pair it with salads, cheeses, or Asian-style dishes with a bit of spice.
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