Our first 8 tons on Pinotage are safely in the cellar and in their fermenters.

The first day of the harvest is always really exciting. We had taken a number of sugar readings from the vineyard in the preceding days to determine whether we would be ready to pick and had decided that Friday would be the first day to pick Pinotage at Kasteelsig in the Swartland. This is earlier than we normally  anticipate, complicated by my commitment to host a lunchtime tasting on that day for the sales team at The Wine of the Month club in Cape Town.

We will take in roughly  24 tons of Pinotage from Kasteelsig, to be harvested  over 3 days. Harvesting 8  tons a day is the optimum quantity for our cellar at Koopmanskloof in Stellenbosch, as our crushers and other equipment are small. Our Kasteelsig Pinotage comes from 2 blocks of grapes , each of which is  planted on different root stock. The variety of the root stock has a bearing on the density of the canopy of leaves on the vine, which influences the speed at which the blocks ripen.

It is also quite fun for us to harvest over a few days to get a spread of flavours. As grapes get riper, the flavour of the wine produced from the grapes changes.

The first day of harvest rarely goes as planned, and Friday was no exception!  We expected the first truck load of boxes of grapes to arrive by 10am……. Time for me to oversee the first crushing and still make my tasting. At 11am I received a frantic call from our other cellar at Rheebokskloof, 30kms from where the grapes needed to be, telling me the grapes had arrived there but the cellar was not  ready…… with the driver redirected to Koopmanskloof,  I then had to rush off to Cape Town

When I got back to the cellar at 2pm I  found the crew peering into the crusher destemmer- it wasn’t working properly! There was a pile of destemmed grapes in the stalk collection,  and the conveyor which deposits grapes into the fermenters was spilling grapes  and leaking our precious and expensive Pinotage juice  over the floor!

Fixing the grape crusher

The technicians had wired up the crusher back to front so the motor was going backwards. Thankfully, Pieter Carstens- chief winemaker of Leeuwenkuil family vineyards came to the rescue and he soon had the wiring  fixed and we were soon on track to begin the crushing. Our conveyor requires some alterations to be made to its design, and the steel fabricators will be along this week to do the work.

The grapes have been crushed into a 2000 litre open fermenter and the cooling plates put into the must . We plan to curtail fermentation by keeping the must cool for 4-5 days.

I popped around to Koopmanskloof yesterday morning on my bike ( a 65km round trip early morning cycle) to check up on things. The sugar is at 24.4 balling, acid 6.1 g/litre and the ph at 3.7. It will be necessary to add a little natural grape tartaric acid to the must to lower the ph  before fermentation commences.

A busy day ahead today as we plan to harvest 2.7 tons of  Viognier and a further 8 tons of Pinotage before the sun sets over the Cape winelands.