Stellar Winery: Organic Wine Cellar

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About Stellar

 

Who are we?

Who are we? Stellar Winery, South Africa's largest producer of fine organic wines, processes organically-grown grapes for the South African and export markets. The grapes are drawn from farms in the Lower Olifants River Valley, part of the Namaqualand area of the Western Cape. This is an area famous for its spring flowers and is also the only semi-arid Biosphere hotspot in the world.

Situated in the Namaqualand hamlet of Trawal, Stellar Winery is privately owned, with the workers having a 26% shareholding in the cellar. 

Well-known for its innovative approach, Stellar has achieved a number of "firsts" in the wine industry. It was the first organic winemaking operation in the world to gain FLO Fairtrade certification and the first cellar in Africa to produce commercially viable no-sulphur-added wines. Stellar has subsequently become the largest producer of these wines in the world and is the number one organic wine brand in the UK.

The organic vineyards and winemaking process are fully certified by the internationally recognised Control Union Certifications, based in the Netherlands.

Stellar's fair trade certification has delivered positive, measurable changes in working and living conditions to the Stellar workforce through the the global sales of fairly-traded wine. The surrounding Trawal community has also benefited from fair trade through the company's support of local institutions such as the pre-school, primary school and football club.

For an edited version of Stellar DVD, go to: YouTube. For a better quality video, download the Windows Media Player format of the video here

Stellar and Fair Trading

Stellar and fair trade

Stellar Winery is a certified Fair for Life producer. For more information on Stellar and fair trade click here.

About some of the Organic Farms

About some of the Organic Farms

Stellar Winery

There are no compromises on ethics and production values, and the farms are kept and managed in as natural a state as possible. A walk through the vineyards bears testament to this; the leaves on the vines are healthy and species of insects are varied and abundant. A soil examination reveals masses of earthworms - all indications of a healthy ecosystem. Indian Runner ducks are kept in the Stellar vineyards to control snails.

 

MiddelplaasKolsvleiBoplaas

Owner: Stellar Farming.
Location: Trawal, Namaqualand.
Organic ha in conversion: 11.6

Cultivars: Muscadel, Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Muscat d'Alexandrie, Viognier, and Ruby Cabernet

Organic Status: Certified organic.

Owner: Stellar Farming.
Location: South of Trawal, Namaqualand.
Organic ha: 29.13

Cultivars: Pinotage, Shiraz, Cab. Sauvignon, Merlot, Muscat d'Alexandrie, Chardonnay, Colombard, Muscadel, Chenin Blanc

Organic Status: Certified organic.

Owner: Stellar Farming.
Location: Trawal, Namaqualand.
Organic ha: 27.15

Cultivars: Pinotage, Shiraz, Muscat d'Alexandrie, Chardonnay, colombard and Table Grapes.

Organic Status: Certified organic.

MatjiesfonteinKeukenhofLutow

Owner: Pieter Van Zyl.
Location: Trawal, Namaqualand.
Organic ha: 4.9
Cultivars: Pinotage, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Steen and Shiraz.
Organic Status: Certified organic.

Owner: Smutsson.
Organic ha: 40.41

Cultivars: Pinotage, Pinot Noir Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.

Organic Status: Certified organic.

Owner: Truter Lutz & Partners.
Location: In the Koekenaap area of the Western Cape.
Organic ha: 22.8
Cultivars: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chenin Blanc.

Organic Status: Certified organic

Troe-Troe Vaalpan 

Owner: Albert Wiese.
Location: Adjacent to the Eastern border of Van Rhynsdorp, West Coast.
Size: 705 hectares of natural vegetation and 13.7 hectares of vines. The natural vegetation is left for small game.
Cultivars: Merlot and Shiraz.

Organic Status: Certified organic.  

Owner: Matzikama- Klaas Coetzee..
Location: van Rhynsdorp, Namaqualand.
Organic ha: 3

Cultivars: Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz 

Organic Status: Certified organic.

 
   
     

Harvesting

Harvesting

The winemaker decides when to pick. Chemical Stellar Winery analysis is used as a tool, but the final decision relies more on flavour and tannin ripeness. Most picking is done by hand, into small plastic lug boxes or 450kg fruit bins. Care is taken to pick only ripe grapes and to ensure that the bins remain free of leaves and canes.

 

A machine harvester is used in some of the more remote areas where there are not enough pickers, or where threatening weather conditions make it imperative to bring the grapes in as quickly as possible.

Winemaking

Winemaking

The cellar is built next to a table-grape packing facility. This means that we have an unrivalled refrigeration capacity, as the table grapes are only processed for eight weeks of the year, and the end of the table grape season dovetails with the start of the winemaking.

Before de-stemming and crushing, hand picked grapes of red and white cultivars are cooled to 0°C in the same cold rooms used to chill the table grapes. The low temperature of the crushed grapes makes it possible for us to avoid the use of sulphur dioxide (SO2) at this stage, as low temperatures inactivate bacteria and yeast.

Machine harvesting takes place in the early morning when the grapes are at their coolest. If additional cooling is needed the grapes are pumped through a mash chiller.

Stellar Winery

White Wine White grapes are separated from their juice before fermentation and the juice is cold settled to clarify it. We also have the ability to clarify juice quickly by means of flotation with inert gas. This is especially useful when power outages threaten, as one only needs an hour of power supply to inject fine bubbles of nitrogen. After that the bubbles rise through the juice taking solid particles attached to them to the surface. The clear juice is then drawn off from under the foamy cap that forms. A selected yeast culture is added and the wines fermented below 15°C to retain a fresh, fruit driven style.

Much use is made of the protection afforded by yeast lees (the yeast cells that settle on the base of the tank after fermentation). These lees are stirred regularly and protect the wines from oxidation as well as contributing to the balance and mouth feel of the wine. When it is time to bottle, the wine is made protein-stable with bentonite and cold stable by chilling the wine close to its freezing point to allow the potassium tartrate crystals to fall out of the wine. The wine is sterile filtered and bottled with a filling machine that replaces the air in the empty bottle with inert nitrogen. This gives maximum protection to the wine from oxygen during the filling operation.

Red Wine Red grapes are also cooled before de-stemming and crushing. This allows us to achieve a "cold soak" for a few days before fermentation starts. The low temperatures take the place of SO2 in inhibiting the growth of wild yeast and bacteria. Cold soaking is the steeping of grapes in their own juice without fermentation. The red pigments are water-soluble and immediately start coming out of the skins and into the juice. At the end of this soaking period the juice can be as dark, or even darker than the finished wine. The alcohol and heat from fermentation is not needed to extract this colour. The darker juice and grapes are then allowed to warm and are then inoculated with a selected yeast.

Temperatures are regulated to around 25°C. This provides an optimum temperature for the yeast. Each tank is connected to a computer that regulates the flow of cooling fluid in their double jackets.

Tannins and phenols are responsible for the astringency and mouth feel of the wine. These components are extracted from the skins and seeds and the heat and alcohol from fermentation hasten this process. Having already extracted the colour during the cold soak one can press off (separate) the skins from the wine before the end of fermentation when the tannins and phenols have reached the right intensity.

During fermentation the skins rise to the surface with the trapped carbon dioxide and form a cap. The skins need to be kept in contact with the juice. The conventional way to achieve this is to pump the juice from under the cap and let it flow through the skins back into the wine. However, we make use of large bubbles of air, introduced at the base of the tank. These large bubbles have a strong lifting force and mix the skins and juice very quickly. We insert a stainless steel lance through the cap and use compressed air that passes through an air and oil filter. The advantages are that it is a much gentler operation. There is no chance of crushing skins and pips in a pump impeller. It is quicker and more hygienic. Sceptics worried about the introduction of damaging air into the wine should remember that a bubble that breaks at the surface has not dissolved any air into the fluid. In any case a strong ferment needs a lot of air and one of the reasons for pump-overs is to introduce oxygen. Towards the end of fermentation or even if one is doing a post ferment maceration, stirring can be achieved by using nitrogen gas from our nitrogen generator.

Stellar Winery

The pressing of the grapes is done with two Bucher XP 150 Ortal Flow Presses. These are amongst the most modern and sophisticated presses available in the industry. They ensure maximum yields of top quality wine and juice.

Wood can be used in different ways depending on the style and price of the wine. One can make use of chips during fermentation to stabilise colour. The wine can also be fermented with staves installed inside the stainless steel tanks. These methods are the most environmentally responsible as they make the most efficient use of a tree that was almost one hundred years old when it was felled. The last, most expensive and most traditional method is to use barrels. At present. no barrel-matured wines are produced at Stellar.

 What are No-sulphur-added wines?

These are wines produced without the addition of sulphur dioxide at any stage of the winemaking process. Stellar produces wines with and without added sulphur dioxide.

Sulphur dioxide is one of the oldest known food additives and has been used in wine since ancient times when sulphur was burnt before sealing the wine in the barrels. It also develops naturally in wine as part of the fermentation process.

However it is also added as a preservative to prevent oxidation of the wine and at the grape-crushing stage as a cleansing agent to kill unwanted bacteria and wild yeasts.

Organic and organic no-added-sulphur : how to tell the difference

Most wine made from organically-grown grapes contains added sulphur dioxide. Wine made without added sulphur dioxide is comparatively rare. It can be made from organic or non-organic grapes and the wording "no added sulphites" will usually be stated on the front or back label. In the United States, the only wine permitted to be labeled "Organic" is wine without added sulphur dioxide, made from organically-grown grapes. The free and total sulphite content of these wines is required to be less than 10 ppm (mg/l). Tiny amounts of residual sulphites can occur in a no-added-sulphur wine from some strains of yeast used in the fermentation process.

Stellar Winery produces both sulphur-added and no-added-sulphur wines. In fact, we are one of the few wineries in the world to produce no-sulphur-added wines and are currently the global market leader in this category.

For consumers with a sensitivity to sulphites, the easiest way to make sure that your wine purchase is free of added sulphites is to check the back label. By law, all producers are required to declare the presence of sulphites in their product. Look for the words "Contains Sulphites". 

View our No-sulphur-added wines Q & A document for more information.

What is Organic?

What is Organic?

Organic refers to a system of farming that maintains and replenishes the fertility of the soil. The grapes are grown without the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers.

Only compost and organic materials are used, with indigenous vegetation for mulching.

Weeds and pests are controlled using environmentally sound practices that sustain the health of our planet and ultimately our own well being.

In the cellar the maximum allowable quantity of sulphur dioxide is half that of the maximum permitted for conventional wines and certain chemicals are forbidden.

Our green policy

Although we farm organically at Stellar, we're aware that our responsibility towards our environment goes a lot further. We also believe that every measure, big or small, makes a difference. for an overview of the measures we're putting in place as we move towards a greener workplace, read our environmental report.

 

What is our Organic Policy?

Stellar is committed to the principles of organic production and our dedication is shown by the following:

  • The winery is a processing facility and its task is to maintain the organic status of the grapes during the production of wine and to do so in an environmentally responsible manner.
  • Where possible waste products are recycled or reused. Skins from the press are composted and organic grapeseed oil is produced from the pips.
  • Stellar is a chemical free cellar except for two areas in the filter cleaning process. Vibration and ozone technology is being used to do away with all chemicals.
  • Water usage in the cellar is audited. Water has the solids screened from it and goes through aeration and an effective micro-organism treatment (EM), before being used for irrigation on the organic table grapes.
  • Wine is at all times recognised and respected as a natural product and additions and manipulations are therefore kept to a minimum so as not to compromise the integrity of the farms, the cellar and its products.

The organic policy is formally reviewed before the start of each crush, and is open to review on an on-going basis.

Stellar Winery is certified by Control Union Certifications, an organic inspection company supervised by the Dutch Accreditation Council RvA, which ensures that EU criteria for organic agriculture and production are strictly adhered to. Stellar products are also approved by the USDA. Our Organic Certification number is: CU 021 094. 

Map of Area

Map of Area

GPS co-ordinates:
-31.706996 Lat,18.559040 Long in decimal format

-31° 42' 24.70" and +18° 33' 33.70" in Deg, Min, Sec


Click here to view map of area.