The farm, Twee Jonge Gezellen, is located in the Tulbagh valley, a region of the Western Cape that – despite its scorching summers – has provided farmers with a bountiful agricultural environment for almost 300 years. In the late 1980s, Twee Jonge Gezellen started producing wines under the Krone name, which has since become one of South Africa’s most prestigious wine labels, most notably for their unique Méthode Cap Classique wine, Krone RD.
Words by Hanfred Rauch
Despite the area’s fertile terrain, wine farmers were not always so blessed. It was only in the 1950s – when they began experimenting with cold fermentation – that they had a breakthrough. When organic matter starts to ferment, it naturally generates heat. When the temperature gets too high, the yeast cells can die, essentially “overcooking” the fermenting substance.
Unsurprisingly, this has an adverse effect on winemaking, ruining the subtleties of the wine's flavours, and creating a breeding ground for unwanted bacteria. With midsummer temperatures in Tulbagh peaking in the mid-40s by 11 in the morning and dipping to as low as 16°C after midnight, the estate's winemakers endure an ongoing race against the elements.
In the 1980s, Twee Jonge Gezellen started night harvesting. “By nature, any fruit starts to oxidise as soon as it is picked,” says Krone’s resident winemaker, Stephan de Beer. “By harvesting at night, we keep the grapes as cold as possible before pressing them. The added bonus is that the harvest cellar uses less energy to cool down the juice from the pressed grapes.”
The night harvest is an event that sees the entire Twee Jonge Gezellen team – from its winemakers and viticulturalists to its horticulturalists and harvesters – descend on the vineyards at around 4 am. It truly is something to behold, as every member of the team partakes in this annual rite of passage.
Krone is one of the few South African wineries that produces vintage-only Méthode Cap Classique wines. The acronym, RD, stands for Recently Disgorged, a traditional method of selecting an outstanding vintage Champagne or MCC and allowing it years of maturation on the lees during second fermentation, which occurs in the bottle.
To put it into perspective, most premium MCCs spend between 30 and 60 months on the lees, but through extreme patience and diligent monitoring, Krone RD can spend up to 15 years on the lees, as with its 2001 vintage.
“We taste and test these wines on an annual basis to determine when the wine is at its optimum to disgorge and release,” says Stephan. “The long time on the lees improves the quality of the wine, lending it complexity. And as the wine has been recently disgorged, it’s also fresher than a wine that has been aged on cork.”
- Elegant, classic biscuit bouquet with creaminess and fine, persistent mousse.
- Freshness of ripe pears and delicate pecan nut notes in the foreground and a refreshing finish.
- A complex nose with fresh aromas of green apple and lemon zest together with subtle notes of freshly baked pie crust.
- The palate is intense and complex, offering baked apple, salted caramel, roasted nuts and a discreet note of honey.
The bright acidity on the mid-palate pairs wonderfully with smoked salmon or pan-seared scallops, while the bisquity creaminess and nutty flavours compliment slow-roasted vegetable dishes or even pork belly perfectly.
In Issue #1 of JAN the JOURNAL, we visited Twee Jonge Gezellen to witness the farm’s magical night harvest, which takes place around mid-January. Look out for the story, Harvest in the Moonlight, to find out more.