Vermentino At Ayama

Love & Friendship, a Winning Recipe

Italy is known to be a country of culture filled with a rich heritage of history, great food, great vino, but is also home to some of the great love stories of our time. It was love which brought Vermentino di Gallura to the Voor Paardeberg Region. Love for farming, love for agriculture, love for their land and country. This passion being evident in consistently wanting to develop and bring something new to their world of profession. Being the manager of a farm in Friuli Italy at the time, Michela needed the consulting services of Attilio, who was referred to her by well-known researcher and friend, Augusto Fabbro. The couple met, fell in love and decided to move to South Africa and create their own Italian world nestled on the slopes of the Paardeberg Mountain.

Why Vermentino?

Understanding the diverse cultures and land in South Africa proved to be challenging at first, but the real challenge was wanting to introduce a uniquely Italian variety to South Africa. Without having any expectations of love, or another union in marriage, the consulting expertise of Augusto was once again relied upon during his weeklong visit with the couple in South Africa.

After giving insight to the site, climate, and terroir, Augusto recommended Vermentino di Gallura as his first choice. Taking into account the growing conditions of Vermentino in Sardinia, the rocky granitic outcrop and dry drained soils, surrounded by the Tyrrhenian sea, being accompanied by salty winds, the Voor Paardeberg Region proved to be geographically suited for this vigorous grower. The Voor Paardeberg Area has long and warm summers with little rainfall. This unique climate receives prevailing winds from the coast which has a cooling effect on the vineyard.

The long wait

After sailing the seven seas, the variety had to go through a quarantine period required by South African Law and Regulations before being certified for planting. Collaborating with a Wellington Nursery, all the documentation for the certification was put into motion. The whole quarantine process took a total of 6 long restless years. The propagation process had to go through 3 phases consisting of various trials against pests and diseases, isolation trails, grafting, cultivation and different types of evaluations. They say that patience is a virtue, and finally, 6 years later, after only 6 buds were propagated, 3360 vines of Vermentino di Gallura was finally certified and released from the nursery and ready for planting.

The celebratory planting & FESTA

In 2014, the first hectare of Vermentino was planted at AYAMA. This historical year also signified a decade of memories for Michela and Attilio, who celebrated 10 years of living in South Africa. In true Italian style, an all-day festa was held. People from all over were invited to join the celebration of this momentous occasion. Close friends, ex- owners Judy and Chris, neighbours, journalists and clients were invited to partake in the festa.

The celebrations started with the actual planting of the Vermentino. Each guest was given the daunting task of planting 5 vines, keeping in mind that most have not planted a single vine in their lives. It has been confirmed that no casualties were reported on the day, however,a few scratched knees, dirty faces, and dusty smiles later, the celebrations were ready to move on to next part of the festa which was a tasting of 6 different styles of Vermentino all from Sardinia. Agusto facilitated the tasting highlighting different tasting notes and what to expect from this versatile, yet complexed grape.

Vino and food go hand in hand, and guest were lavishly treated to a dinner of South African and Italian cuisine. Special toasts were made, toasting to a decade of settling and farming in a foreign country unscathed, toasting to a decade of happy memories, toasting to a decade of making new friends who became family and toasting to a decade of success!

Tender, Love & Care

The first official South African Vermentino harvest took place in 2016. Grapes usually take approximately 4 years to become fully productive. Adapting extremely well and adjusting to its new habitat was not at all a challenge for the variety. The first harvest produced grapes of good quality. Ripened grapes golden in colour, while still attaining its pleasant acidity and fresh characteristics, the block over-performed and Attilio was ecstatic.

The secret to any successful vineyard is in the development and training of its’ vines.  Known to be quite a vigorous variety with high bud fertility, the vines were trellised on a Double Arch/Guyot style trellis system.

Being a cultivar favouring long pruning, special attention is given to pruning with only a selected few of the farm workers pruning this block. The workers are given special training on pruning and young vine development, and are educated on the importance and advantages. Attilio facilitates the training and is keen to share his knowledge and expertise with the team. The same team is used for canopy management and other practices carried out on this block.