Using grapes from 13 unique parcels of vineyard on Avondale Estate, Samsara 2009 is a milestone on the remarkable journey of this biodynamic wine estate.
The name Samsara, meaning ‘to flow on’ in Sanskrit, relates to the Buddhist concepts of reincarnation and rebirth, and is a perfect illustration of the cycles of renewal and revitalisation integral to proprietor Johnathan Grieve’s pioneering BioLOGIC® approach to viticulture and winemaking.
“Samsara is the story of how life flows from one form to the next, how it is all interconnected; which is precisely the way we approach our soils and winemaking on Avondale,” explains Grieve. “If we nurture and work with nature we’ll reap the benefits in flavour, vibrancy and the health of our vineyards.”
Grieve is a passionate believer in terroir-driven wines, and the soils of Avondale are uniquely suited to Syrah. Complexity has long been a hallmark of the wines of Avondale, and the Samsara shows to full effect the remarkable diversity of geology and micro-climates on the property.
The Syrah vines for Samsara are planted across 13 unique soil types; from 75% rock to decomposed granite to ‘koffieklip’ ferricrete; each carefully chosen to keep Syrah’s infamous vigour in check and ensure concentration and intensity in the bottle. The low-yielding organic vines deliver between four and eight tons of grapes per hectare.
“Every pocket of soil brings a different character and expression to the wine,” explains Grieve. “The idea is to maximize the uniqueness of Avondale by giving each soil type a voice in Samsara.”
The clarity of that voice is amplified in the cellar by Grieve’s commitment to spontaneous fermentation using wild yeasts. With up to 50 yeast cultures active during a fermentation that slow, the warmer oxidative style fermentation builds further character and complexity in the wine.
Blocks are fermented separately to retain their individuality, with extended skin contact of between 15 and 25 days after fermentation for better colour extraction. To further enhance Samsara’s elegant grape-driven tannin structure, one-quarter of the 2009 vintage underwent whole-bunch fermentation.
“Whole-bunch fermentation brings exceptional structure and freshness to the wine,” says Grieve. “And because the tannins are driven by the grape, not oak, there’s phenomenal capacity for ageing, with the tannins becoming more integrated over time.”
Once fermentation is complete Samsara is matured in a mixture 600-litre and 225-litre French oak barrels for up to 18 months, before Grieve and winemaker Corné Marais tackle the delicate task of blending the components into a cohesive whole expressive of Avondale.
“Blending brings consistency of character to Samsara, and allows us to focus on the blocks that show the best expression of Avondale’s terroir,” says Grieve, who aims for an “Old World palate-driven style with minerality, elegance and structure. We want the grape to be the star of each bottle, and everything we do on the farm and in the winemaking process is to nurture that.”
Samsara 2009 is certainly defined by elegance reminiscent of the Old World; the nose redolent with notes of wood, white pepper and violets. The fruit-driven palate is both full-bodied and well integrated, delivering a delicious blend of cloves and cinnamon, cherries and pepper. Whole-bunch fermentation ensures firm tannins and acidity, gifting the wine both length and structure.
In essence, it is a perfect expression of both Avondale and the vintage.
“2009 is widely regarded as one of the standout South African vintages. It was an incredibly powerful vintage, and Samsara is no exception,” says Grieve. “It’s a powerful wine, a bold wine, but it is exceptionally elegant and structured. It’s also a wine that really shows the progression of our biodynamic philosophy and what we’ve achieved on the farm.”
Avondale’s Samsara 2009 is available at R399, cellar door price. For more information visit www.avondalewine.co.za; phone 021 863 1976; follow on Twitter @AvondaleWine; visit Avondale Wine on Facebook; and follow avondalewinesa on Instagram. Learn more about the farm’s unique BioLOGIC® approach on proprietor Johnathan Grieve’s blog: www.biologicwine.co.za