2016 Vintage Wines at Backsberg Ticking all the Boxes
While many wineries are gradually shifting to a lower gear and readying themselves for a well-earned break after the annual harvest, the engine room at Backsberg Estate Cellars is still bustling with activity. Although the last grapes have been picked and the pruning shears packed away for now, the production team led by winemaker Alicia Rechner are working as hard as ever putting the final touches on the season’s soon-to-be-released young wines.
At Backsberg the majority of the white grape varieties were harvested slightly earlier than usual on account of the extremely hot early summer conditions, to avoid possible sun damage. The Chenin Blanc 2016 was the first wine from the current vintage to be released, and it is brim-full of tropical fruit flavours, supported by a balanced acidity. The Kosher Range Chardonnay 2016 has also just been bottled, while the Sauvignon Blanc, Special Late Harvest and Rosé is due for release in the next few weeks.
Alicia, who also oversees bottling and labelling at Backsberg, is clearly well-versed in running a busy ship. She is keenly aware however, of the value of having a fully engaged production chain. “We have a demanding schedule between winemaking, bottling and labelling activities, but it is wonderfully reassuring to know that we have such a solid and growing demand for our wines. Any winemaker will tell you that an empty cellar is a better ‘problem’ than a full one!”
After a professional career spanning 20 years, the thrill for Alicia still lies in the physical making of the wine. Matching individual batches of fruit with the optimum yeast and gently nurturing the wine through fermentation, to the finishing processes to get it ready for the bottle. “There is something endlessly satisfying about using raw materials to create a totally novel product,” says Alicia. “My goal is to make something that has provenance and is accessible and enjoyable, wines that will stand the test of time and any conditions, and leave their drinkers wanting more!”
Although the development of the 2016 crop of red wines is still in its infancy, Alicia is buoyant about the quality already on show, particularly the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is looking exceptionally plush and expressive.
She is equally excited about the release of Backsberg’s Centenary Wine Collection, which commemorates the estate’s 100th anniversary this year. “The Cape White is definitely one of the exceptional wines,” says Alicia. “A blend of Chenin, Roussanne and Viognier, it is layered and moreish, with delicious white peach and pineapple flavours, laced by subtle spice. We have some very interesting pockets of lesser-known varieties on the farm, and the Centenary Collection presented an opportunity to showcase some of these hidden gems which bring finesse and dimension to a blend as is the case with the Cape White. The other wines in the range are also captivating in their own right.”
With the 2016 harvest successfully concluded, the verdict from Alicia and her cellar team is clear: this year’s crop of wines offer distinct variety and complexity, but the golden thread remains Backsberg’s signature drinkability.