With water on everyone’s lips (excuse the pun!) this harvest will be very challenging and require lots of hard work and skill to make it successful. A very small vintage has been predicted for South Africa in a year when more wine will be consumed than produced worldwide. It will be interesting to see if there will be a shortage of wine in the year ahead.
Harvest started about a week later on 18 January with Pinot noir for Kaapse Vonkel as usual. Grape quality has been excellent so far and it is one benefit of the extremely dry summer. No sign of rot or disease, but mealy bug infestations statrted to appear during the past week. These bugs spread leaf roll virus so it is always unwelcome. It does not have any effect on quality, but more importantly on the long term health of the vine.
Temperatures have been above average and it is no surprise that acidity levels are lower than normal. Expecting this to happen, our aim was to pick at slightly lower sugar levels than in previous years to preserve the natural acidity of the grapes.
Initially ripenening was haphazard and slow and we were ahead of schedule last week, but it all changed from Monday when ripeness advanced almost overnight. All our own Pinot noir vineyards have been harvested and some of the Chardonnay still has to come in. Pinot from cooler Elgin and Darling vineyards are still a week or so away.
Week three also saw the first Sauvignon blanc harvested as well as Pinotage for Brut Rosé. With 9 of the next 10 days predicted to be over 30°Celsius, it was a good decision to take in some Sauvignon early for fresh, herbaceous flavours. The Pinotage showed some uneven ripeness making grape sampling very difficult and less accurate. This of course complicates the harvest planning.
The biggest surprise so far has been the higher yields compared to last year. This applies to Pinot noir, Pinotage, Pinot meunier as well as Chardonnay blocks. Whether this will apply to Sauvignon and other later varieties is doubtful though.
Johan Malan – Cellarmaster