Harvest Update 9 March 2011

This has been the hottest January and February that I have experienced in the 16 year on the farm! We have not had any rain since the start of December and our irrigation dam, at the top of the farm, dried up at the start of February. We had to pump water up from the Berg River, for the first time in 5 years. Last time we pumped up water was for post harvest irrigation in April!

We are very thankful that we have the water with irrigation installed for all our vineyards, as the quality and quantity of the crop would take a major knock without it, this harvest. Etienne had a tough job getting all the grapes in, at the right time and in the right condition which is so critical for the production of quality wines, so hats off to him and his hard working team.

Early morning starts are crucial to getting the grapes into winery before it gets too hot. Between Norman (based here at Vrede en Lust) and George (based at Caseys’ Ridge), their teams have hand harvested 567 tons by yesterday  (the 8th of March):

  • 184 tons  from the Vrede en Lust vineyard
  • 255 tons from our Ricton vineyards
  • 107 tons from our Casey’s Ridge vineyards
  • 21 tons brought in from other producers

We have thus far harvested just over 80%  of the expected 2011 crush. On Vrede en Lust we are still busy harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Petit Verdot while at Caseys’ Ridge we are currently harvesting Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, with Viognier and Shiraz, plus a small maiden crop of Cabernet Sauvignon, still to come.

Some varietals, such as Chardonnay, were up on last year, others like Pinotage were down. We experienced major wind damage in our Pinot Grigio and Viognier blocks in Elgin, with those crops hit really hard. Overall, the crush should come in up on last year.

Ansone, Baron, Cyril and Susan Not during Harvest

Ansone, Baron, Cyril and Susan Not during Harvest

Susan is happy with the quality of the grapes, but delighted that we had the Pellenc automatic sorting machine installed, as it had to work hard getting rid of sunburned berries, shot berries and some Elgin berries affected by rot.

She believes the investment will pay big dividends in terms of quality improvement. I will drink to that!

The 2011 Jess and Sarah will be heading to the blending bench, in the next week or so. Susan is pleased with the wine components that she and Ansoné have at their disposal. We hope to bottle those new vintages in April, for release in May.

They love the chardonnay destined for Marguerite, which is has completed its primary barrel fermentation. The chardonnay crop was up this year, so we should be able to make a bit more 2011 Marguerite.

The Sauvignon Blanc from Elgin is nearly all in, also ahead of schedule due to the warmer, dry season experienced. The vines at Caseys’ Ridge are maturing well and the fermenting Sauv Blanc looks excellent at this stage. Susan is also particularly excited about the flavours of the Cabernet destined for the 2011 Boet Eramus.

The harvest team have been working very long hours and they are all dreaming about the end of harvest and the intense winemaking phase! They hope to finish up the crush by the 18th of March. That is about 10 days earlier than last year. Lets hope all continues to go well with the 2011 harvest.