Harvest 2012 Diary

Melvin August (cellar worker), Susas Erasmus (winemaker), Anthony Mbombo (cellar worker), Ellen Lubbe (intern winemaker), Danel Morkel (intern winemaker), Baron Willemse (South Africa’s cellar worker of the year 2011), Chris Spurdens (intern winemaker) , Ansonè Stoffberg (assistant winemaker) and Etienne Buys (viticulturist).

1 Feb 2012 (Wednesday):  Started the harvest with Chardonnay from our Ricton vineyards for the Sarah 2012. Previous harvest dates have been between 27 Jan – 3 Feb for the same block of Chardonnay. This particular block produced very small bunches this year, so we ended up with 33 tons vs an estimated 40 tons. Down 17% on the 2011 crop. The juice settled very well and by now the smell of fermentation is working its way through the winery.

7 Feb 2012 (Tuesday): Harvested the Simonsberg-Paarl Viognier. This crop was also 15% lower than the harvest estimate and we only took in 10 tons. As always though, the Viognier is showing early promise and could be one of the stars of the harvest! Typical early harvest blues in the winery with the

9 Feb 2012 (Thursday): Harvesting Pinotage from our Ricton vineyards – all for the Jess Rosè 2012. The Pinotage reached harvest target ripeness almost a week later than last year. Our harvest dates for it are more like the 2009 vintage, so no wonder that it feels like we’ve had a slow start to harvest. It looks like we will harvest nearly 70 tons of Pinotage for Jess, well up on last year’s small crop. By the end of the day 71 tons have been processed vs 125 tons at the same time last year.

10 Fed 2012 (Friday): A further 23.8 Tons of Pinotage for the Jess in from our Ricton vineyard. Some light rain forecast for the weekend which will be welcome at this stage and help lower the temperatures a bit.

13 Feb (Monday): 21 Tons of Pinotage for Jess. This completes the Pinotage harvest with a total of 69 tons. Our harvest estimate was 60 tons and this year is 60% up on the small harvest in 2011 (which was 30% down on 2010). So a great harvest for Jess this year and timely, as we always run out of Jess too soon, despite increasing production as the grapes & nature allow us to do.

Some analysis of grapes we expect to harvest next: Shiraz 5D for Jess Rosè – 22,0B  , Malbec for Mocholate: 21,1B  and  Grenache for Jess Rose: 19,8B. Interesting to see the Shiraz ahead of the Malbec, as we normally harvest the Malbec first!

14 Feb (Tuesday):  Happy Valentines Day! No grapes coming in today. Sampling in the vineyards to monitor ripeness.  A grape free day help a great deal with catching up all the other normal cellar activities that don’t get 100% attention on the days that we harvest! Not sure when we will get in the first of our Caseys’ Ridge grapes from our Elgin vineyards. Not much due in February?

21 Feb (Tuesday): No harvesting for the past week. The 2012 harvest is definitely quite late, which should be good for the quality due to longer hang time. Praying the weather does not do anything weird!

22 Feb (Wednesday):  We brought in the first Elgin grapes today – 8.7 tons of Pinot Grigio. The harvest is more than double the 3.5 tons harvested from this block last year, but still quite small for a 1.8Ha block (4.8 tons per ha or 1.9 tons/acre). The bunches were very small this year (seems like a trend this season) and rain hit the Caseys Ridge vineyard quite hard just before completing the harvest. Susan is very happy with the quality of the juice at this early stage.

23 Feb (Thursday): Etienne’s 50th birthday and the least amount of harvesting done by his birthday!
Took in 8 tons from the young block of Grenache on Vrede en Lust for rosè production.  Had a few drops of rain yesterday, but nothing to worry about, the sun is out today and it looks like a warm weekend ahead as well – all good for the ripening of the red cultivars.

We may start with the first Sauvignon Blanc from Caseys’ Ridge next week some time. The reds from the Simonsberg look like they will be coming in at full speed from early March.  141 tons to date;  on the same date in 011 we had crushed 280 tons, in 2009 150 tons – so ripening very similar to 2009!

24 Feb (Friday): The good and the bad: On the left; bulk red wines from the 2011 harvest leaving in the tanker is a good thing on 2 accounts: Income and opening up precious tank space for new wines from the 2012 harvest.

We make more wines than we bottle ourselves. That allows Susan to select the best for the Vrede en Lust range and sell the excess to wineries that buy in bulk wines.

The barrels are bad from an expense perspective, as they cost about R10,000 each. Susan and Ansone of course love them, as they help in the process of crafting the top end of our wines.

We buy more than 100 barrels every harvest from a carefully selected range of coopers. 4 years later they become flower pots…

 27 Feb (Monday): Happy birthday Susan! Reds at Vrede en Lust ripening, but Malbec which is normally first, is running very late. Took in 13 tons of Merlot for Red Lady and 10 tons of Shiraz. Getting busier in the winery now!

28 Feb (Tuesday): Harvested 12 tons Merlot for Red Lady, plus the first 8 tons of Sauvignon Blanc and 6.8 tons of Semillon from our Casey’s Ridge Elgin vineyards. Ripeness on Sauv Blanc and Semillon were spot on. We will be crushing in white grapes almost every day for the next 10 days.  201 tons in so far!

1 Mar (Thursday): 10 tons Shiraz to be used in our Jess Rose, The first 8.5 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon from Vrede en Lust and more Sauvignon Blanc from Casey’s Ridge, Elgin.

2 Mar (Friday):  13 tons Merlot for Boet Erasmus from Vrede en Lust and Sauv Blanc from Casey’s Ridge.   Busy weekend with Sauv Blanc rackings and red wine pumpovers!

5 Mar (Monday):  16 tons of Malbec from Vrede en Lust,  2 weeks later than ever before and well downn last year and on estimates. Chardonnay and Sauv Blanc from Casey’s Ridge.

6 Mar (Tuesday):  The first of the Shiraz from our Ricton vineyards up the road and still more Sauv Blanc from Elgin taking total SB to 45 tons. Total Tonnage by Tues evening:  337.5.

Late nights, home after dark and at work at dawn – cellar team still going strong, but the tell-tale signs of harvest bruises and sore backs are coming through.  Hoping to finish all the Sauv Blanc from Elgin this week, then still Chenin and Viognier to tick off before all the whites are finished on that side.  Reds full speed on this side, so logistics in cellar are running tight!

7 Mar (Wednesday): 17 tons of Shiraz from our Ricton vineyards next to Babylonstoren and 14 tons of Sauvignon Blanc from Casey’s Ridge.

8 Mar (Thursday): 20 tons  Shiraz from Vrede en Lust and 11 tons of  Sauvignon Blanc from Casey’s Ridge.  Harvest reports from Susan are brief at present as they are now running at 100% in the cellar!

9 Mar (Friday):  The last of Sauvignon Blanc from Casey’s Ridge, Elgin came in.  83 tons of Sauv Blanc from Elgin in total this year.  Also took in Cab Sauv from block 8 VNL (11,5tons)

Busy weekend with pumpovers – almost all the red fermenters are filled with grapes, so space is getting an issue!! So far we have taken in just under 60% of the expected 2012 harvest.

12 Mar (Monday):  Harvested the last of the Merlot’s from VNL.  Block 20 and 13A – total of 26 tons for the day.  The reds are ripening at full speed now and the last of the whites from Elgin (Chenin Blanc and Viognier) should also come in this week. Interesting to see a gap of more than 5 weeks between the harvest of Simonsberg-Paarl and Elgin Viognier!

13 Mar (Tuesday): Last of the Vrede en Lust Shiraz for the 2012 harvest – 10.5 tons.  First 7.1 ton batch of Viognier from Elgin plus first of the Cabernet Sauvgnon from our Ricton vineyard – 12 tons.

14 Mar (Wednesday): Started to harvest one of our best Cab blocks – Vrede en Lust Cab Block 4 and some more Cab from Ricton – 14 tons. First batch of Chenin Blanc from Elgin 7.1 tons. Total grapes harvested by end of Wednesday:  494 tons.

15 Mar (Thursday):  Completing the maiden Grenache harvest from VNL – 11.8 tons. Picking Cab from Ricton – 13.7 tons. Finishing the Viognier from Elgin – 7.2 tons

16 Mar (Friday): The last of the Cabernet from Ricton – 13.5 tons, the second batch of Chenin Blanc from Casey’s Ridge (Kogelberg registered single vineyard) – 7.7 tons. Total tons harvested so far – 548!

At this we still have  the following grapes hanging on Vrede en Lust: Petit Verdot and 4 blocks of Cab. Ricton has some Cab to go and in Elgin we have the last batch of Chenin Blanc, plus the Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. So looks like we will be harvesting through Easter this year.

19 Mar (Monday):  Petit Verdot from Vrede en Lust – 10.4 tons. 13.1 tons of Cab Sauv from Ricton.

20 Mar (Tuesday): The last of the Ricton grapes are in – 11.4 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon!

22 Mar (Thursday): Vrede en Lust block 14 Cabernet Sauvignon – 13.3 tons and 8 tons of Chenin Blanc from our Elgin vineyard. Hope to finish harvesting the Elgin Chenin tomorrow, which will leave only reds in Elgin and 3 blocks of Cab at Vrede en Lust.

604 Tons harvested so far. The cellar is very busy and space in the red wine fermenters is a juggling act at this stage.

26 Mar (Monday): 12.7 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 18 and Ricton.

27 Mar (Tuesday): 12.9 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon from Vrede en Lust Block 15

28 Mar (Wednesday): Maiden harvests of 2.6 tons of Cabernet Franc and 3.4 tons of Merlot from our Elgin vineyards. Both blocks are 1 Ha (2.5 acres) in size and were planted in 2008.

29 Mar (Thursday): 12.2 tons of Shiraz from Caseys’ Ridge vineyard in Elgin, followed by 40mm rain over the weekend. 20mm rain fell at Vrede en Lust.

2 April (Monday): Block 18 Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 18 – 16 tons – its last crop ahead of removal of this block that never produced the required quality.

3 & 4 April (Tues & Weds): 25 tons of Shiraz from our Elgin vineyards – looking great this year.  Harvest time is almost over! Vrede en Lust and Ricton vineyards are done and there are only the last Cabernet Sauvignon from Elgin that will probably be finally harvested tomorrow.

5 April (Thursday): 3.9 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon from our Elgin vineyards. This is the second harvest from this 1Ha block.

That brought the total crush to 701 tons and an end to the 2012 Harvest! The team will me making wine from the 2012 grapes for some time to come, but the backbreaking job of bringing in the grapes and dealing with weather risk is over.

Thanks to the whole team in the vineyards and in the winery for a great deal of effort and care.