At the beginning of every year Jeremy pencils into our shared calendar what will happen where and when during harvest, and this year was no different. With a slightly more complicated model than most, we make wine in three geographically spread-out locations, and harvest grapes from several far-flung vineyards. Meticulous planning is therefore of paramount importance! However, this year it quickly became clear that our best laid plans were going to fall victim to a very delayed harvest and from the get go Jeremy’s scribblings on the calendar were changing by the day.
We finally kicked off on 5 February, harvesting an excellent crop of Carignan at Welgegund, and declared our harvest at an end on 30 March when we pressed off our Breedekloof Pinotage, which this year comes from the highest Pinotage vineyard in the world at Silkbush. In previous vintages these vines have produced some of South Africa’s top Pinotages and we are very excited to have grapes with such an excellent pedigree in our cellar.
The core team this year comprised our fearless leader Jeremy (who was recently dubbed ‘The Zen Winemaker’ by someone who has been watching how he works), Connor Hofmeyr who joined us for the month of February to do some vac work, and Fiona who was delighted to be extracted from the office on several occasions to help out. Emma was also drafted in whenever possible. With the moveable feast that was this harvest we were often faced with scenarios such as one person driving grapes from a Swartland vineyard to a cellar in Wellington while someone else was processing grapes in Walker Bay and third was relocating equipment that was needed in the Voor Paardeberg. But, teamwork is the name of the game and the pack came out on top as always.
Curveballs of the year: oidium at Vaalvlei! Our Sauvignon Blanc was affected by a late outbreak of powdery mildew caused by a broken tractor and therefore a missed spraying. This led to an even lower yield from this vineyard and we had to arrange a last minute purchase of grapes from Stonefields which is astonishingly close to the ocean. We are looking forward to the results of this unexpected addition.
Rainfall during harvest! An unprecedented downpour across the winelands on 9 March had winemakers racing to take in grapes that they had planned to leave hanging for a bit longer. We were relieved that the vast majority of ours were already in the cellar, with the exception of the Semillon from La Vierge for our Lightning Sauvignon Blanc.
A broken bakkie! With immaculate timing, our trusty silver 2003 Toyota had to spend a bit longer in the shop than expected after its service, leaving us one vehicle down mid-harvest.
But apart from these minor hitches and the usual thinking on your feet that is required during winemaking, it has been a successful harvest. The headlines from this year have to be slow ripening, low (sometimes dramatically so!) yields, and excellent quality. For the first time we are maturing our old vine Chenin Blanc in Spanish clay amphorae, and we also viniified some wonderful Grenache from Welgegund, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Pinotage from Kasteelsig in the Swartland and another parcel of Syrah from Vaalvlei. We truly believe that we have some very special, if small-volume, wines biding their time in the cellar as we write.