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Shiraz adapts well to various climatic conditions. It is known to perform well in both warmer regions as well as cooler terroirs close to the coast or at altitude.

Shiraz vineyards are found in all the wine producing areas of South Africa and there is a marked difference between the flavour profiles of the various locations.

The variety is fairly resistant to disease but is however susceptible to wind. Careful consideration should be given to the method of cultivation when planning the production of a specific style of Shiraz.


Physiology

Vines have a limp, creeping growth habit with very good vigour and adapt well to different climatic conditions but are susceptible to wind.

Leaves are large, dull green and longitudinal with a downy underside and five moderately defined lobes. Bunches are medium/large and long with a cylindrical shape and sometimes winged, although not prominently. Bunches are normally loose with a long easily-broken peduncle but some clones can produce large-winged, compact bunches.

Berries are medium small, noticeably oval with a blue-black thin but fairly tough skin which is thickly coated with bloom when fully ripe. Berries take on a wrinkled appearance when left on the vine for extended periods – locally referred to as “oumens gesiggies”.

The flesh is succulent with a distinctive and pleasant taste. Grapes ripen late mid-season (Approximately mid February to end-March) with an average residual sugar content of 23 – 26° Balling and an average acid concentration of 5 – 7 g/ℓ.


Viticultural Practices

Clones

There are a number of Shiraz clones available and selection is usually based on the specific terroir and wine styles. While there should theoretically speaking be a difference between the flavour profiles induced by different clones, such differences may be influenced more by terroir and viticultural practices.


Rootstock

During the 19th century South African vineyards were nearly wiped out by a microscopic insect called Phylloxera vastatrix, that attacks the root system of the vine, eventually destroying the plant completely. Fortunately at that stage Europe had already discovered a technique of containing this epidemic. America’s native Vitis labrusca proved to be immune to this pest and the solution was to use them as rootstock and graft Vitis vinifera vines onto them, a practice still used today.

Rootstocks from different Vitis species are selected and bred for various characteristics e.g. vigour, fruit size, resistance to drought, diseases, root pests etc. A producer will first determine the particular characteristics of his soil in terms of e.g. pH, mineral content, growth potential, water availability etc. before selecting a rootstock. An important factor that should also be borne in mind is that there should be an affinity between the scion (vine cutting) and the rootstock.

Normally medium to low vigour rootstocks are used because of the strong vigour of Shiraz.


Soil, location and aspect

When establishing a new vineyard it is advisable to implement proper soil mapping from thorough soil analysis. The main objective with Shiraz production is to establish a vineyard displaying homogenous, moderate vigour and growth.

To obtain the above, careful consideration should be given to the choice of rootstocks and the adjustment (if necessary) of soils based on the chemical and physical soil analysis.

The following aspects should be considered for the production of good quality Shiraz wines:


Vine Training Systems for Shiraz


Irrigation and Fertilisation

Shiraz is known to be a vigorous grower and this can easily get out of hand should conditions for growth be stimulated.

It is recommended that vines are rather moderately stressed right from the very onset of the growth period in stead of only during the bunch development stages and ripening period. Fertilisation should therefore also be approached with caution and applied conservatively.


Pruning and Canopy Management

Shoots should ideally be positioned upright with enough leaves in the canopy to protect bunches from direct sunlight but also to allow enough diffused light through for colour and aroma development. However pruning and canopy management should be applied according to production outcome in mind. The main focus should be on balance between vegetative and reproductive growth.