The 2014 Harvest report
By Christiaan Loots (Farm Manager ) & Nadia Barnard (Cellarmaster)
In 2013 we experienced an exceptionally cold and wet winter. This accumulation of cold units was favourable in ensuring an even budburst and an elegant ripening process. Leading up to this stage, our main focus in the vineyards for the 2013 post-harvest preparations was to further improve the health of our soil by increasing life in the form of bacteria, fungi and earthworms. This was done by composting, cover cropping and by making use of biodynamic preparations. The main aim is to have permanent humus building up in the soil via these life forms in order to restore a natural balance where nothing is out of place. By doing this we are constantly building fertility in the soil, which feeds the vines and these naturally occurring predators also help control any pests. This system over a period of time becomes a self-sustainable one, where we as farmers are merely guardians and interfere as little as possible with the natural balance on the farm.
In 2013 we came to the conclusion that our vines’ immune system was so optimal that we could move away from copper and sulphur sprays (permitted organic additions) and in doing so followed our philosophy of minimal intervention in the vineyards.
Adding our compost to the Semillon.
Tilling our Mourvèdre block.
During the year we planted cover crops to naturally put nitrogen back into our soil, therefore preventing us from having to add this in the winery. We started making a variety of different bacterial and fungal dominating composts with the aim of putting more accessible nutrients and minerals into the soil for the vines to take up. This includes using our chicken run deep bed system which is rich in nitrogen and feeding this to our earthworms to add aerobic bacteria; fermented fish and kelp teas and weed teas made from comfrey and nettles – these are used in combination with bio-fertiliser (a system where manures are put through a anaerobic process, for the bacteria to break these components down into a form that the vines can take up after being converted back into an aerobic state through oxygenation.) We incorporated these manures into the soil by spraying it on top of the cover crop and ploughing this in by using our horse-drawn implements.
We had very high rainfall in mid-November and also in the beginning of January. Budburst was later this year as the winter seemed to linger a bit longer than usual. With the initial budburst we only sprayed a fungi (Trichoderma species) onto the buds to protect them by inhibiting any other fungal growth. The results were fantastic and as natural as can be. Towards the end of January we experienced more rain and decided to spray the first small dosage of sulphur and copper for the season to ensure healthy growth.
Our horses transporting the grapes.
From the rest of January until the end of February the growing season was cool and optimal. There were no excessive heat spikes and the grapes were able to produce optimal aromatics with a slower ripening period. We started picking about a week and a half later than normal. This year we were able to pick at a lower sugar level as the desired aromatics were already achieved at that stage.
There was a bit of rot coming through on the white varietals, but we managed to sort most of this out in the vineyards, whilst we pressed softly in the winery and allowed the juices to settle for slightly longer. The natural fermentation process started earlier than in previous years – this is thanks to the small fermentations which we got underway before we picked the whole block. Once we had picked the whole block, we then simply added the small fermenting batches, which allowed for the main fermentations to proceed more easily.
During the fermentation we allowed the yeast to take its natural course and did not need to add any nutriments to our Waterkloof grapes. This led to longer fermentations, keeping the lees in suspension and should help result in wines of greater complexity.
By the time we started picking the red varietals – by mid-February – the day temperature started to rise. We did not see much rot on the reds. The moderate climate conditions during the harvest season contributed to intense colour with exceptional structure.
Part of the 2014 harvest team
Christiaan and Nadia (it takes a lot of good beer to make excellent wine)