Of merlot, snakes and shipments to Canada – another busy week of harvest 2013
Our week began with a bang! We harvested Shiraz on Monday and Merlot on Tuesday. Monday is unfortunately always a slow day as it takes a while for the pickers to get going after the weekend partying! We got the first load of grapes into the cellar at about 4pm, followed by a second load at about 7pm – phew.
The cellar team are fantastic – with 5 vintages of Painted Wolf under their belt, they know the grapes even better than I do. It takes roughly an hour for us to process a ton of grapes through our little crusher. The team worked till very late on Monday. On Tuesday morning the cellar was spotless and the newly crushed grapes were in their fermenters with cooling plates in the grapes.
Merlot came in later on Tuesday. The berries are tiny and the wine really concentrated. Merlot is often not very good in South Africa, producing hard wine with green flavoured tannins. Our vines, mostly of shale soil make really fine, plummy, soft Merlot. Merlot is the only variety in the vineyard which suffers from organic farming- we have Millerandage every year- this is poor berry set due to downy mildew, which seem to be a particular issue for this Merlot. The small berries and loose bunches give us exceptional concentration, but are not great from a vineyard perspective, as the total crop on the vineyard is low.
Adam at Mulderbosch helped us out with the Sauvignon Blanc issue, so that was a big relief! Whilst I was with Adam on Tuesday he asked me to identify a snake which had been found in the hopper into which grapes are received in the cellar. It turned out to be a lovely Red Lipped Herald . They can often be quite feisty, though this individual was very calm. They are back fanged and their venom not dangerous to people. We do occasionally see Cape cobras and mole snakes around. Unfortunately they are persecuted and generally killed by farmers and farm workers. I recall being told that there has not been a single person bitten by a snake in all the years the Back family has owned Fairview, that’s in well over 70 years!
Our red wine bottling went well, and we are again bottling tomorrow – Guillermo Pinotage 2011. I am excited about the potential of this wine. Next Monday we will bottle a tank of The Den Chenin Blanc 2012
The week is ending on a high, as today we are loading our first container for the government liquor stores in British Columbia. Painted Wolf Den Cabernet will be on promotion in BC in May. Another container is due to load this week for UK. These are only the second and third full containers we have packed. The first was in September last year. This is an exciting development for us, as sales begin to track upwards at a steadily increasing pace.
I took a sample of Pinotage from Southern Cross vineyards earlier in the week. The grapes tested 22 balling- and there were numerous green seeds amongst the grapes. There were a few sunburnt bunches too. We will need to pick carefully to avoid this fruit. Sunburn causes cooked flavours in the wine – not really what I am looking for ! We will pick the grapes at around 24 balling.
I am leaving for Cape Town shortly, as I am pouring wine at Caroline’s Wine Shop in the Waterfront.
Hope you enjoy a glass of Painted Wolf with your dinner tonight!