We’ve awaited the 2018 harvest with cautious optimism and nervous anticipation, bracing ourselves for a lower yield as a result of the drought. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Word from the vineyards is positive as the harvest season is gaining momentum.
So far, so good
Keep calm and rest assured that there will be enough bubbly to go around. MCC producers kicked off the harvest, a week later than expected, bringing in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes at optimal ripeness.
Graham Beck Wines, specialist producer in Cap Classique in Robertson, celebrated the harvest with their annual Harvest Parade on the 11th of January. Dressed in colourful and imaginative outfits, farm teams delivered the first load of grapes to the cellar with song and dance.
Recognising that this year’s harvest has been particularly challenging, cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira is optimistic and reports that they “had outstanding quality of fruit coming into the cellar”.
Also playing the “ready, set, wait” game was Simonsig Wine Estate who had to wait an extra week before harvest of their Pinot Noir for their Kaapse Vonkel could start. With all of their Pinot Noir now harvested they are impressed with the grape quality, one of the benefits of the extremely dry summer, and surprised at higher yields of Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay compared to that of 2017.
Paarl winery and home of SA’s first White Pinotage, Mellasat Vineyards, started sampling grapes in the 2nd week of January. Since bringing in their first grapes a week later, destined for their White Pinotage, the winery has been buzzing and finished harvesting their Chardonnay and Viognier during the first week of February.
All hands on deck
A sense of camaraderie is what Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch treasures during harvest season. Pickers chant “elke korrel is ‘n borrel (every grape is a bubble)” as they make their way through the rows of vineyards. This year their harvest commenced on the 25th of January with Chardonnay and Tempranillo grapes flowing into the cellar.
Harvest time is the most exciting time of the year with wineries seeing the results of all their effort and labour from previous months. It can also be stressful and tiring times, with early morning pickings and late night shifts in the cellar. Steenberg Estate in Constantia was grateful for a bit of rain in the first week of February, giving a break from the summer heat and boosting their energy after a full week of harvesting.
Northern Cape for the Win
All eyes are on Northern Cape producers as they have been mainly unaffected by the drought plaguing the Western Cape. Orange River Cellars reports that a good resting period for the vineyards during the winter, has resulted in a healthy crop and sufficient volumes to supply their market with fine wines.
The silver lining
The drought has been a dark cloud over most Western Cape producers. It has hit hard, some more than others. While a shortage of wine to supply the market is a possibility in future, the one silver lining has been the quality of the grapes harvested so far.
Frank Meaker, winemaker of Swartland winery, Org de Rac, is impressed with the berry shape and size despite predicting a smaller harvest this year.
While wineries are now seeing the fruit of their labour coming into the cellar, we look forward to tasting it with the release of the 2018 harvest. To join in the harvest fun, attend one of the following harvest festivals:
Nederburg Harvest Festival, Paarl – Saturday, 17 February
Hands-on-Harvest, Robertson – 23 – 25 February
Grande Provence Harvest Festival, Franschhoek – Saturday, 24 February
Eikendal Weintaufe Harvest Carnival, Stellenbosch –Sunday, 4 March
Muratie Harvest Festival, Stellenbosch – Saturday, 10 March