The Spice Route cellar is in the heart of the Swartland region, near a town called Malmesbury. The first harvest to pass through the cellar was in 1998 and the first few vintages saw 400 to 500 tons of fruit arriving at the cellar during the months of February and March each year. With Sauvignon Blanc from vineyards in Darling as well as other new planting in the past decade, the cellar has been expanded and improved to accommodate the additional grapes and maturing wines.
When Charles Back started the Spice Route wine journey, the farm did not have a cellar, so an old tobacco drying shed was converted into a modern production and barrel maturation facility to very precise specifications. Now handling some 1000 tons of fruit each vintage, it is equipped predominantly with 12- and 18-ton stainless steel fermentation tanks, as well as five-ton open concrete and French oak fermenters. Maturation is in 225l barrels, primarily French but also some American oak. Between 40 and 60 per cent of the 1 000-odd barriques are renewed each year, depending on the requirements of the vintage, style of wine and quality of fruit.
The flagship of the winery, Malabar, is produced in a separate, dedicated cellar. Here fruit is hand sorted over sorting tables, and only the finest berries are selected. These grape varieties are fermented and matured individually, and only the top quality is retained within the Malabar cellar. The wines are handcrafted and receive carefully considered oaking. Winemaker Charl du Plessis, along with a team of tasters, taste the wines regularly and when the quality is of an acceptable level a blend is developed. Malabar is produced with no regard to quantity, and volumes are governed by the quality of the blend’s constituents. The final blend is returned to barrels to mature and knit together, until it is considered worthy of its title and leaves the Malabar cellar.
The Spice Route cellar produces about 75% red wine and 25% white wine. All of the wines are made and matured at Spice Route before being sent to the Fairview estate in Paarl for bottling and labelling.