South Africa looks set to become home to the largest urban wine vineyard in the world. This is if President Cyril Ramaphosa’s vision of a brand-new city built in the country is realised. During his recent State of the Nation Address, Pres. Ramaphosa suggested it was time to build such a new modern city in South Africa. But besides featuring shiny skyscrapers and sleek bullet-trains, the new city is also to host a vineyard from which various wines are to be made.
According to a working document entitled “Cyril’s Urban New Toy”, which has been leaked to leading South African news-hub WineGoggle, the new city is to arise on the dusty plains of the central Northern Cape or the Free State. Despite these regions not being known as naturally suited for the growing of vines, 25 hectares of vineyards will be housed in a climate-controlled glass casing offering the “optimum climatic conditions” for the growing of a diverse range of “well-known and classic grape varieties”.
The grapes will be vinified in a state-of-the-art winery next to the vineyard, with the first wines ready for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the bullet-train station One Time, On Time.
According to the Cyril’s Urban New Toy proposal, the planting of new vines in the city vineyard will not be necessary. “The idea is to uproot selected vines, which are already bearing fruit, from various terroirs around South Africa and plant them in the calcerous soils on which the new city will be built,” reads the document. Suggested varietals are, at this stage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage, and will be sourced from the respective regions of Stellenbosch, Hemel-en-Aarde, Durbanville and Paarl.
Once planted in the indoor structure, the vines will flourish in a computer-controlled indoor environment emulating the natural conditions of the geographical areas from where the plants were sourced.
The document says, “The vines will feel truly at home. They will be subjected to southerly breezes scented with sea-salt and kelp as well as gale-force north-westerlies in winter. Suspended irrigation systems will present each variety with its desired watering, from 800mm per annum for Chardonnay to 550mm per annum for Pinotage. During January and February the heat will be turned up, with life-like solar panels projecting ultra-violet rays and ensuring temperatures of up to 38°C. Piped sounds of bird-song will be played in the enclosure throughout the year to add to the vines’ sense of being in a natural environment.”
Planning of the urban vineyard has reached such an advanced stage that a name for the wines have already been signed-off. The Ramabrosia Ubuntu Select Series will include single-varietal wines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a Cape Blend of Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon.
A Blanc de Blancs Cap Classique sparkling wine made from a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, e’Bubble, is also to be introduced, the first in South Africa made from these varieties.
The 250 ton winery will feature machinery exclusively built in South Africa. Brand-new barrels for wine-aging will come from a new cooperage in Atteridgeville where wood from indigenous Mopane trees will be used to craft the barriques.
According to the document, the winery will underscore Pres. Ramaphosa’s commitment to local products and suppliers. “Besides the Mopane wood barrels, corks will be sourced from the oaks growing in the Western Cape and bottles are to be blasted from Kalahari sand.”
When contacted for comment, Pageboy Thlabini, one of the drafters of the presidential urban plan, initially denied knowledge of the proposed urban vineyard in South Africa’s sparkling new modern city.
He did, however, react when reminded that grapes grow on vineyards. “Oh, the grapes,” he said. “The grapes are not made for the eating, but for the wine. The President he wants the wine from the new city to have South African wine and not that which is imported from foreign places like the France, Italy or Cape Town. Just like his suit and his fish and chips, it must be local and truly South African.”
Thlabini said that various consultants had already been contacted to assist on the project, including some of the best wine farmers in the country.
“We invite not just the farmers, but everyone to dream with the President and the rest of us who are involved with this new South African city,” he said. “We are just dreaming big, and willing to dare to fail. But it is going to be one hell of a ride. And everyone will need wine to get them through it.”