The Colour ProjectThe Colour Project undertaken with Stellenbosch University, aims to find a scientific manner of categorising vineyard quality.

To date, the vineyards supplying to the Robertson Winery cellar have been categorised alphabetically according to their visual appearance. A trained eye can make pretty good predictions by viewing the vineyard, assessing the canopy, leaf quality etc. and categorising that vineyard in terms of the quality grapes it will produce. These categorisations dictate not only the wine they will eventually become, but also the payment that the farmer will get. In a large winery such as this, different vineyards are vinified together and therefore an accurate assessment of the resultant wine from each vineyard is difficult to achieve. RW’s aim is to make this certification more scientific and therefore more accurate. So they have selected 30 of their vineyards across the spectrum and a Ph.D. student at the university is taking samples of grapes as each of these are harvested and vinifying them in their ‘cellar’ to see if they do actually produce the quality, and colour intensity, that we think they do.

The project also can be extended into all sorts of areas. For instance, we can scientifically ascertain whether mechanical harvesting is better or worse than hand harvesting and other similar issues. This is a three-year project but we will already have data after this harvest, which we can use to improve the next one.

Regulated Deficit Initiative (RDI)Regulated Deficit Initiative (RDI) aims to establish just when and how much water a vine needs to produce the ultimate grapes.Briaan explains: “A little water results in small berries with thin skins and lots of flavour, and a lot of water results in big juicy berries with thin skins but not much flavour.” Somewhere in the middle is a grape that ripens sufficiently without stress and offers good flavour concentration, but produces enough quantity to make it worthwhile for the farmer, and this is what the project aims to establish.

Several vineyards have been selected, and blocks within the vineyard demarcated. Within these blocks varying amounts of water are being fed to different vines and the quality and ripeness is being monitored.“By the end of the project we hope to have a better idea of just how much water a vine needs, and when to give it,” explains Briaan.