Harvest Report 2016
Another fantastic harvest complete. The wines all safely in barrels, quietly finishing off their ferments. The reds hopefully going through malolactic fermentation. This is the 27th year (including a few experimental vintages) we’ve produced wine with no yeast additions. I’ve been warned of the dire consequences, but so far so good! I believe the additional complexity & individuality it gives our wines is worth all the nail biting anxiety.
Last year (2015) was our earliest harvest we’ve had since we started in 1992, but this year we started a day earlier on 22 January with the same block at exactly the same sugar level (not that we can pretend to pick so accurately!) Early harvests always mean a hectic start. No matter how much effort you make to prepare, it always seems to catch up on one.
The early & mid summer was one of the hottest and driest on record, putting the vines under some stress, but they seemed to survive surprisingly well. I think it may be due, in part, to a lot less wind than usual during this time. Wind has a huge impact on water stress, which can be both positive & negative. It is something that hasn’t been studied much and is very relevant in the Cape.
By the end of January the weather cooled down slightly and the evenings in particular were a lot cooler. We’ve recently been getting some Chenin Blanc from a wonderful 40 year old vineyard on a south east facing slope in Firgrove, recommended to us by well known viticulturist Rosa Kruger. This vineyard produced the most exceptional fruit this year. Dense ripe complex flavours, but with refreshing acidity and elegance. Unfortunately the Keermont Chenin suffered from powdery mildew and production was down 30%, so our overall production will be a little less than usual, but looking very good.
Some of our reds had uneven ripeness within the bunch, making it difficult to do an effective green harvest. Removing a small percentage of green bunches is easy enough, but removing individual berries from the bunch is extremely time consuming. We did attempt this in our more important blocks, but its difficult to keep the staff motivated with such menial work. We had a similar problem in 2004 and the wines are drinking beautifully…
Some of the Merlot looks excellent & some rather average (Plan B to the rescue!) Some of our Syrah 393 we may have picked a little early, so we went a little easier on the extraction. It should be a real keeper though and I suspect we may use a high percentage in our Elevation 393. The Blueprint Syrah picking was spot on and looks very promising, though yields turned out a lot less than expected.
The Cabernet Sauvignon was perhaps the star of the vintage. The weather was significantly cooler towards the end of February and we even received a few drops of rain (15mm). Both yield and quality was excellent, especially from Keermont vineyard. We picked everything at just the right time with very little greenness and certainly no over ripeness. As always, we never add any tartaric acid and the natural acidity levels & pH were very good.
We seldom pick a block from one end to another, but rather leave out the vigorous pockets and come back to them later. Sometimes as much as 10 days later. Usually these ‘greener’ areas we ferment on the skins for a shorter period to hopefully extract less of the undesirable green tannins. The riper lots we extract more. We then give the wines time in the new / newish oak with several rackings to break down & polymerise the tannins to give the wines that elusive velvety texture with time.
Lastly, our Straw Wine production went well, but due to the low yield at Keermont, quantity will be down significantly. We particularly like to use the Keermont grapes for the Straw Wine as they’re naturally looser, smaller berries and less likely to rot on the drying racks. The sugars were very high so we can expect a highly concentrated, sweet Straw Wine 2016 in a few years.