The 2008 harvest has been labeled as the most difficult harvests in a decade. Cooler ripening periods delayed the harvest, stretching it out over two and a half months. This certainly tired a lot of winemakers, not because of the late nights and hard work, but because we had to wait for the grapes to ripen.
Spring of 2007 was one of the coolest and wettest in years. Strong winds during flowering resulted in poor set, therefore producing loose bunches with small berries. The cool weather followed through into December with unusual rain at regular intervals. This led to vigorous growth late in the season. Disease pressure (rot and downy mildew) was high due to the wet conditions throughout the growing season. Fortunately due to good vineyard practice our vineyards showed little signs of infections.
We had no real heat wave in January which together with the cool spring resulted in the grapes reaching ripeness about 10 to 14 days later than normal. Late ripening cultivars like Cabernet Sauvignon experienced a normal ripening cycle, while we were happy that the Sauvignon Blanc grapes showed great flavours and a firm acidity. We hit a bit of a quite time after the rush of the white grapes waiting for the red cultivars to ripen. This happened very slowly due to the cooler nights we experienced. The result was red varieties reaching ripeness at lower alcohol levels. A real positive in today’s competitive market where the consumer is requesting less alcoholic wines.
SAWIS has reported that the total South African production has been 1.36 million tons, about 0.5% more than the 2007 statistics.
As predicted our production from the property was 230 Tons with a 70% white & 30% red ratio. The individual wines are currently showing well with the Sauvignon Blanc showing characteristics of blackcurrent leaf and in some cases passionfruit. Merlots generally ripend at lower alcohol levels and shows ripe fruit with elegant, fine tannins. Some of the vineyards we planted after Paul purchased the farm in 2004 also came into production. Even as a first crop, the quality looks really exciting with the Shiraz and Mourvedre standing out. Even though harvest is barely finished, I cant wait for next vintage to see what quality these vineyards will produce now that they are a bit more settled.
From a viticultural perspective, the first vineyards were planted this year using biodynamic principles, including new Mourvedre vines. We have also started converting some of our other young vineyards such as Sauvignon blanc and Shiraz to biodynamic farming methods. In practice, this means that we use no chemicals to control weeds and pests. We prefer to use natural enemies of pests like mealy bugs to control their population. Our idea is to use the minimum amount of chemicals which not only helps the environment, but also help us to make better wine.
Werner Engelbrecht (Winemaker & Viticulturist)