We are now into the first week of the 2011 harvest at Vrede en Lust! The cellar gets is distinctive ‘harvest bouquet’ which can be experienced as part of our new winemaking tours. The harvest started with Chardonnay destined for our Sarah 2011 Unoaked Chardonnay. The harvest will be a long one, as our Elgin vineyards ripen a lot later than the warm climate Simonsberg-Paarl vineyards. At present we expect to bring in the last grapes by early April.
The Chardonnay block, from our Ricton vineyards down the road, came in at nearly 30% up on last year, but with a relatively low yield running at about 58%, post sorting and the press. Thus 41 tons yielded less than 24,000L of juice that should translate to about 20,400L of finished wine. We expect to crush a further 15 tons from an older block on Ricton, taking us closer to our target production level for the Sarah 2011.
We have also harvested the 12 tons of Viognier from Babylonstoren, located next to our Ricton vineyards. It is the same tonnage as last year and the yield is just below 60%, which means we get 7,200 L from 12 tons of grapes.
We will lose another 12-15% through the wine making process, so the final production of the 2011 Simonsberg-Paarl Viognier will be just under 700 cases of 12 x 750ml. The Viognier from our Elgin vineyards will only come in during late March.
On the 2nd of Febryuary we started taking in the Pinotage for the 2011 Jess (just in time for her birthday on the 3rd!). We aim to increase production of both Jess and Sarah by about 50% this harvest, due to rapidly growing demand. Etienne prepares the vineyards specifically for Rosè production, thus the grapes come in earlier and with the right levels of acidity and desired flavour profile. People do not want their rosè to smell like bananas – more like strawberries!
It is the first harvest that we have the automatic sorting machine permanently installed, replacing the destemmer/crusher of previous years. It seems to be working very well, but the new flow and speed does represent a learning curve with adjustments required downstream.
The Pellenc destems and sorts about 100kg of grapes per minute, which translates to about 1 ton every 10 minutes or 6 tons per hour. The stems get blown to a trailer and next stop for them is the compost heap.
The sorter has to remove berries that are too small (unripe) and the berries that have been spoiled and damaged ahead of harvest.
Looking at the matter rejected by the sorter, one sees small stalks, small green berries, a lot of pips that get shaken off during the vibration process and grape skins that have been spoiled.
The small green berries are clearly visible amongst the Pinotage reject matter.
Will the already delicious Jess taste better with this kind of matter removed ahead of the press? Time will tell, but I feel very optimistic about the outcome.
The harshest tannins reside in the pips & stalks, so by dramatically reducing the contact with the wine, one ends up with more gentle tannins. It is amazing how many pips get removed in the sorting process!
We experienced a blazing heat wave in early January, that resulted in some ‘sunburn’ damage. The sunburn results in some of the berries turning into raisins.
The destemmer seems to do a great job of shaking off the softer berries and keeping the raisins on the stems. The photo taken of stems in the trailer clearly shows some of the raisins still on the stems.
The automatic sorting machine has been working very well so far and Susan is happy with the quality of the juice.
Working with 2 presses
As mentioned in the blog about the Cellar Upgrade, we also installed a second press last year. This makes a big difference while processing grapes destined for white and rosè wine, as we can cycle through 2 batches of grapes at the same time. Previously we would have to wait until the press was complete, emptied and washed, before pressing the next batch, which is clearly not optimal in terms of oxidation risk.
The next blog will introduce you to the 2011 Harvest team.