The current harvest is determined by the conditions of the previous years. With this taken into account, we could see that all of our hard work in 2018 certainly paid off in this year’s harvest. The leaves were still green for more than one month after picking the grapes. This is an indication that the vine still has enough reserves which can be mobilised back to the roots, to ensure an even budburst later in the year. We welcomed a bit of rain just after the 2018 harvest, which also assisted the vine to build-up reserves for the 2019 harvest to come!
The 2018 winter was cold and the vine could go into proper dormancy. During this time, we worked hard to help build up the nutrients required in the vineyard for the summer growing period to follow. At Waterkloof we are always tweaking the processes. One example, of many, is the deep bed system, where we put plant cuttings and manure into an area which used to be aerated by chickens scratching around – now the chickens were substituted by three beautiful little pigs that dig channels into the compost to turn it. This mixture was especially beneficial during the drought as it is a rich source of carbon that improves the water holding ability of the soils.
We started combining our earthworm system with the biodynamic cow pat system (a mix of cow manure, biodynamic teas and volcanic dust) to make another combination of mycorrhizal fungi, bacteria, carbon and of course a lot of nitrogen.
All of this is done in combination with other composts, to feed the soil during the winter period. Furthermore, we planted a cover crop of lupines and barley which in turn feeds nitrogen and potassium into the soil via their roots. During the winter the sheep and angora goats graze through this to keep it short. Just before spring time the horses then turn the soil by pulling an implement – which add additional organic matter into the soil .
Just before budburst our Farm Manager Christiaan Loots was fermenting all kinds of funny things, which included chicken manure, fish extracts and Russian comfrey. These are known as Biofertilizers and are a concentrated version of many micro and macro elements which the vine needs for its photosynthesis.
We saw a nice, even budburst during a cool spring, but had a lot of wind during flowering which lead to uneven berry set on some of the blocks. To help the vine ripen properly, we sorted through to keep the more developed bunches on the vine.
From there the summer growing season was fairly cool, except for a few warmer days in October. We were also very happy to welcome some rain in January, which accompanied by the wind, lead to the soil receiving good moisture without having humidity build-up on the grapes that could cause rot.
The 2019 harvest commenced the last week of January, but went into full swing from the first week of February. We picked our last grapes at the end of March. On the younger blocks, the yield was down by about ten percent, but the older blocks produced more or less the same.
The whites showed a lot of concentration and vibrant acidity. With the reds, we had lovely small berries with thick skins. During processing, we once again worked as gently as possible to always avoid over-extracting and just letting nature takes its course with our natural ferments.