Emma is thoroughly enjoying being able to spend more time than usual in the vineyards this harvest with her grape transportation skills in demand. It provides a great opportunity to photograph the journey of some of our grapes, returning to old favourites like Kasteelsig vineyard with views to the mountains across fields of hay bales, as well as exploring new territories.

Harvest provokes an awakening of all the senses – the anticipation and excitement of new beginnings, feeling the early morning freshness before the heat sets in, taking in the stunning scenery of the Cape winelands, the sound of the clippers as the grapes are harvested, the tasting of the grapes fresh off the vine with their intense flavours.

This is her report on the beginning of the harvest season.

Harvest began for Painted Wolf on Thursday 24th January with beautiful Pinotage grapes from Kasteelsig vineyard in the Swartland.  With the recent years of very low rainfall, the quantity of these unirrigated grapes has reduced drastically and hiring bulk transport was an unnecessary cost. Jeremy and Emma went back to their 2007 harvesting transport: a couple of hired trailers filled with brand new ‘kissies’ attached to the bakkies, with the Borgs as drivers. They hadn’t realised quite how low the Pinotage yield was going to be, so the plan had to change at the eleventh hour and instead of taking the grapes to a cellar nearby, they drove them to the Koopmanskloof cellar.  For the past ten years, Jeremy has been working with Madre and her winemaking team at Koopmanskloof where the cellar is set up to work with smaller volumes of grapes and perfect for premium hand crafted wines.

Jeremy’s thoughts on the Pinotage “After a better winter with more rain, the bunch size and number of bunches per vine has increased from last year. It is still only around 50% of what we expect. The quality of all the cultivars harvested so far has been exceptional. The Pinotage was picked fully ripe with relatively low levels of sugar and very high natural acid and low PH. These are the best quality Pinotage grapes in the thirteen vintages we have harvested from Kasteelsig. As the bunches and berries are small, the amount of juice is small so the flavours are very concentrated. This has been whole bunch fermented.”

Wandering in Wellington

Jeremy is always on the lookout for interesting parcels of grapes to make beautiful wine, which led him to a vineyard in the Wellington area which he remembers as a supplier of wonderful grapes to Fairview twenty years ago.

The next stop on the harvest tour was the stunning Welgegund farm in Wellington on Tuesday 29 Janurary where grenache was harvested. The mature grenache vines are planted amongst huge granite boulders. Jeremy was particularly enchanted by this geology, “It reminds me of a stately old grenache vineyard in the Rhone valley.”

His verdict on the grapes: “We elected to pick whilst the acid was still fresh and for a moderate alcohol, so at this stage the bunches still have a number of what appear to be under ripe grapes. If one waits for every berry to darken the resulting wine is very jammy.”

The grenache was part whole bunch and part gently crushed for fermentation

Jeremy’s verdict in the cellar after analysis: “Fantastic. Nice low pH and crispy acid. Very happy”

In the meantime, the Swartland Pinotage whole bunches have been fermenting away in open fermentation bins, hand punched three times a day – now the majority of the stalks are removed by hand

Jeremy destalking pinotage by hand

Back to Kasteelsig

After Wellington, it was back to the Swartland to harvest Viognier and Syrah from Kasteelsig vineyard.

Due to the drought, there had been no Kasteelsig Viognier available last year, but this year, Painted wolf Wines was the delighted recipient of a tonne of these lovely grapes. The last time Painted Wolf harvested these grapes was in 2017, when unusually the wine would not ferment with its own yeast due probably to a nutrient deficiency in the grapes as a result of the drought. As a precaution Jeremy has decided to use a French commercial strain of yeast. The grapes were de stemmed and gently pressed into a single super tight grained 300 litre French oak barrel. The remainder of the skins/juice were added to the Syrah grapes for a ‘Côte Rôtie’ style co-ferment.

There are many grapes still to be harvested from Wellington, Breedekloof and the Swartland to name just a few areas, the pack from Painted Wolf will be on the move from vineyard to vineyard for the rest of the month. Keep an eye out on social media for more news.