Interview with Rollo Gabb
Managing Director of Journey’s End Vineyards from South Africa

We meet with Mr. Rollo at the iconic restaurant R Trader, situated in Al Fattan Currency House for lunch. Joining him was Mr. Mark Brough of MMI and as with all the wine tastings, we started ordering food to taste along with his selection of wines.
Mr. Rollo comes from an English Family that has produced wines for three generations. Proudly he mentions that his father produced wines in my beloved Puglia with the Solferino Family and has also a production of wine in Sicily and across Italy with MGM. He himself produces wines in Stellenbosch, a great wine region in South Africa.
The farm is 120 hectares of which around 40 hectares are dedicated to vineyards, with the original plantings of 28 hectares made in 1996, the farm was purchased in 1995. The grapes planted in his vineyards are Chardonnay, Viognier, Semillon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

The wine tasting of today showcase three range of his Chardonnay:
– The Cellar Range, Haystack Chardonnay, their everyday wine
– The Estate Range Chardonnay, the middle range with a total production of 23 barrels
– The Destination Chardonnay, their top cuvee, with a total production of 12-barrels.

LG: What’s the philosophy of your vineyards?
Rollo: Our soil is mainly made of decomposed granite and we have few sites with clay. Each wine comes from the same plot year after year so we have a more consistent product.
The vineyard is situated on a south-facing slope that benefits from the sea winds which we call The Cape Doctors winds, that impart a great acidity and saltiness to our wines, however, we need to be very careful during the flowering season as those winds can get very nasty and damage all crop, so it’s very important to us to have an outstanding canopy management to protect our vines during flowering or no fruit will be born.
The grapes are picked in different stages, 40-45% are picked quite early and is the component we ferment in stainless steel, so it really preserves the freshness and acidity, 40-45 % are picked at around 23 balling so in their perfect maturity and 10-15% percent are picked at around 25 balling so the fruit is ripe and add more flavor to the wine.

LG: Talk me through the production of those tree different labels
Rollo: The Haystack Chardonnay is hand-picked early in the morning, part from early picking and part from more matured picking, then we chill to about 4 degrees, then we crushed it, so picks up a white film that preserves the primary fruit characteristic.
After Fermentation in stainless steel, we age 50% in old 300-liter French oak barrel, mainly 3-4 years old so we have a very fresh final product with a very little touch of oak.
The final product is a wine that has quite a balance between fruit, oak and fresh acidity that makes great food pairing wine.

The Estate Range Chardonnay grapes are hand-picked in the morning from 2 different plot, which one is picked at a bit early and the other plot is picked at best maturity (23 balling), then the fermentation takes place 300l French oak barrels before is matured for 9 months into 300liter French oak, of which 20-30% is new oak and the remaining is 2-3 years old French oak. The wines are partially wild fermented and only 10-20% goes into malolactic fermentation. We use predominantly a particular French Oak called Chassin as it pushes the fruit forward while the oak notes sit back in the background. We also work with Francois Freres amongst other coopers.
The final product is a wine that has initially lemon and citrus characteristic due to the fruit that was picked earlier and then more tropical fruit comes along together with savory oak tones very well balanced.
It’s a wine that reminds of the south burgundy style like Fuisse, very elegant, food forward, where the acidity plays the great role.

The Destination Chardonnay grapes are handpicked from a 2.5 ha single vineyard block that has more clay soil than granite. The grapes are picked between 24 and 25 balling and then are 100% barrel fermented before to be matured for 12 months in 60% new French oak and the rest in 2-3 years old French oak. No malolactic is applied, as we want to preserve its own acidity.
The final product is a wine that reminds of a great Meursault with stone fruit characteristic, honey texture with very dry acidity.

LUCA: Do you produce any Pinotage?
Rollo: No we don’t produce any Pinotage on our farm. I’m indifferent toward the Pinotage as I’m just curious about it but not a fan and I don’t think that Pinotage did a favor to the South African wine industry, as it doesn’t broadly represent the quality of the wines of South Africa.

LUCA: what’s your view on organic wine?
Rollo: We are not certified organic and we will never be, but we follow lots of organic principles in our farm.
Organic for me it’s not the use of any pesticide, herbicide and sulfur; however, I want to reserve the right to use a little bit of sulfur during the crush.
The key distinction is if you are farming for quality or quantity?
For quantity you still need to use pesticide and herbicide practices but we are a farm that prefers the quality above all so we do apply organic principles like being environmentally sustainable, we do minimal intervention in both vineyards and winery, we plant crops between vineyards row to prevent weeds and therefore to reduce the need for spraying, we are using barn and eagle owls to control rodent, we use wild ferment whenever we can.
I’m not sure that using organic on your label is a marketing tool for the wine, I just prefer to employ those principles for the goodness of my wines.

LUCA: Apart from your wines what else do you enjoy?
Rollo: I love Rhone varieties, some Californian producers like Au Bon Climat, Qupe, I enjoy Barolo, Amarone and Primitivo, however, for the quality-price, I really enjoy South African wines in particular.