Dedicated Elsenburg-trained Dirkie Christowitz, who joined Monis in 1979, relishes in the task of making the country’s finest fortified wines. His outstanding fortified wines are the result of
six to seven years of meticulous care and craftsmanship in the cellar.
Christowitz personally oversees the growth of the flor yeast and is one of only a few South Africans to have mastered the art of cultivating this distinctive yeast, essential in the
production of fine quality Monis Fortified Wines.
Dirkie is also acclaimed as maker of fine South African Cape Vintage. As a management member of the South African Cape Vintage Producers’ Association, Dirkie has always been active to enhance the standing of local Cape Vintage.
At Monis, we take our winemaking process very seriously, constantly looking for new and innovative ways to improve the quality of our fortified wines, while remaining true to the
traditions that have been honed over the decades.
Flor is the Spanish for flower and refers to the very unique yeast used in the production of fortified wines that originated in the 14th century in the area around Jerez de la Frontera in
the South-West of Spain.
At Monis, Chenin Blanc grapes are used exclusively for making the base wine used for its range of four fortified wines ranging from extra dry (Fino) to sweet (Full Cream). After the initial fermentation with flor yeast of about six weeks, the wine is fortified to 15,2% alcohol by volume (abv.) and inoculated again with the flor yeast before it is transferred to small barrels
in the Criadera, Spanish for nursery.
The barrels are filled only five-sixths with the young wine to leave enough room for the oxygen the flor needs to grow. Now a second and much slower fermentation starts. The flor, because of its higher fat content than other yeasts, floats on top of the wine – an ivory coloured layer that can be 3 to 5 mm thick and which protects the wine from oxidation. It is
the flor that gives the fortified wine its unique taste and bouquet.
After three years some of the wine in the Criadera is transferred to the Solera – not all of it, but only about two thirds of what is in the barrel. Before going into the Solera, the wine is fortified again, this time to 18,5% abv. The barrels in the Criadera are then topped up with young wine to the previous level and the remaining old wine inoculates what has been added
so that the growth of the flor continues.
The Solera consists of three rows of barrels and is essentially a blending and ageing system with every row containing wine of a different age. Every year fortified wine is drawn off from the barrels in the bottom row, which is then filled from those in the second row which is filled from the top row which is filled with wine from the Criadera. And so it goes on. The average
age of Monis fortified wines is therefore about six years.
Before being bottled from the Solera system, the wines are blended to varying degrees with sweet wine, called Paxeira. It is also made from Chenin Blanc but from grapes with a much higher sugar level. The wine is similarly fortified to 18,5% abv. and matured for three years,
but in this case in barrels filled to the top to prevent oxidation