Wanderings at harvest time
Our pack Whatsapp group recently went on a pinging bonanza as Jeremy shared his photos from the field. He had taken a cycle to Leeuwenkuil and Langvlei to check on the state of the grapes before he briefly flits off to London for the North South Wines trade tasting and rushes back in time for the actual harvesting.
The drought conditions in the Western Cape is of greatest concern to everyone, including winemakers. The state of vineyards is very much a mixed bag depending on the availability of irrigation and the type of soil grapes are planted on. Kasteelsig in the Swartland is dry farmed and has been badly affected by the drought with a small crop of tiny grapes. On Leeuwenkuil and Langvlei farms it is a mixed bag with irrigated blocks having some very nice grapes. The top end of Leeuwenkuil is on a special site with deep shale soils which seem to still have moisture in the subsoil. Sandier soil down near the lower end of the vineyard have poor looking vines. The lack of water means that the grapes are small though and they are ripening very slowly. We should have already started harvesting. At this stage it looks as though we will cut the first Pinotage around 11 February. We expect intense, relatively high alcohol wines. Jeremy took a selfie at the top end of the farm, next to the beacon. The vines behind him are the beacon block, which is bought by Fairview for their famed Beacon Shiraz.
We source Pinotage from a large block of old bush vines in the next block.
Carnivores and organic vineyards
The next set of photos that popped up two days later were from Kasteelsig in the Swartland. This vineyard was one of the first places we sourced grapes and is now organically certified. As a result, it can look a little scruffy, but it has also become a home to some unexpected residents. Jeremy spotted three bat-eared foxes under the vines and managed to get this shot on his phone (not bad for a skittish subject). Along with African wild dogs, bat-eared foxes spent many years being considered vermin and being killed off. These lovely little carnivores are almost entirely insectivorous. According to the African Wildlife Foundation: “A single bat-eared fox can eat up to 1.15 million termites each year—this is about 80% of their diet. In addition to termites, bat-eared foxes also eat other insects and arthropods, small rodents, lizards, the eggs and chicks of birds, and plant matter. They obtain much of their water from the body fluid of the insects they consume.” It makes sense that they would be comfortable in the drought and we are happy that they provide the added service of pest control experts.
On Monday, he was back in the cellar to work on the blends of the 2017 top red wines and to take delivery of some brand new 500 litre French oak barrels. We are buying 20 new top quality barrels this year which will push up the quantity of new wood in our 2018 vintage wines to 30%. We still have a small quantity of wine from the 2017 harvest in the cellar that is maturing beautifully. Jeremy is confident that the Guillermo and Swartland Syrah from this vintage will be one of the best we have produced – you can try it for yourself in a year or three.
And then there were six
Jeremy made one last trip back to Kasteelsig before he left and this time saw six bat-eared foxes. He thinks they are denning in a culvert under the road, so we will keep you updated on sightings. In addition to the bat-eared foxes, our batty winemaker got very excited about the organic pinotage grapes at Kasteelsig (pictured at the top of this post)