Thursday, 3 April 2014

Clink! Clink! Toasting to #harvest2014!

It was icy cold this morning. It feels like we have skipped autumn and moved straight into winter. The mountains in Robertson are already covered in snow!  Strange to think that we picked the last grapes at Doolhof only 3 days ago.

Harvest 2014 may be over for the grape farmers in the Western Cape, but us cellar rats still have a few tasks to finish before we can load the kids and husband/wife into the Fortuner and take a well-deserved break. And boy, do we deserve it!


This season has been a hectic one, from buckets full of rain during the growing and picking seasons to scorching heat-waves that left us panting and praying for mercy. The usual ripening order of the cultivars were heavily influenced by the weather causing red and white grapes to ripen in unison which in turn put a bit more pressure on the cellar.

5 February marked the first day of harvest, 10 days later than last year. We started by picking the Chardonnay at a slightly lower sugar/higher acid concentration to introduce a broader flavour profile into our unwooded Chardonnay. Chardonnay is an interesting grape (and my favourite to work with!). At lower sugar concentrations the flavours lean towards green apples and they evolve into more tropical peach and citrus flavours the riper the grapes get. We picked them very selectively and kept the blocks separate using different commercial yeast strains. The result: I now have 4 different tanks to create the perfect blend!

Our ever popular and stunning Sauvignon Blanc babies were harvested next, just before the first diabolical heat wave hit us! As always this vineyard is a joy to make wine from. The grapes were glowing with perfect health and the flavours bursting with superb concentration.

We welcomed our single vineyard Malbec into the cellar a week afterwards and following just 2 days of cold soaking the colour was a deep magenta. I’m so excited about this wine…it’s going be a stunner.  Next came our Merlot, Pinotage and Shiraz grapes, which all made their way to the cellar in a space of one week resulting in a busy time for the team. After-hour and weekend entertainment included feverish pump-overs, rack and returns and punch downs. During that week we also harvested our petit 1ha block of Chenin Blanc. The yield was an equally tiny 1.5 tons so we are definitely looking forward to an intense wine with loads of flavour.


The following 2 weeks were pretty uneventful. Waiting for the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot to ripen was a bit dreary and the looming rainclouds did not help. When a gap in the weather presented itself we harvested the Cab and although I was concerned about the amount of rain we had prior to picking, the sugars were perfect and the flavours are remarkable.

Today we are pressing our last Cabernet Sauvignon tanks. The Petit Verdot is happily fermenting away and Kelvin, Norman and Rico are busy preparing barrels for filling. What a joy it has been to make wine and be part of the team again a decade after I spent my first harvest here in 2004. I'll be cracking open a bottle of bubbly and saying cheers to a great vintage tonight!

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Clink! Clink! Toasting to #harvest2014!

It was icy cold this morning. It feels like we have skipped autumn and moved straight into winter. The mountains in Robertson are already covered in snow!  Strange to think that we picked the last grapes at Doolhof only 3 days ago.

Harvest 2014 may be over for the grape farmers in the Western Cape, but us cellar rats still have a few tasks to finish before we can load the kids and husband/wife into the Fortuner and take a well-deserved break. And boy, do we deserve it!


This season has been a hectic one, from buckets full of rain during the growing and picking seasons to scorching heat-waves that left us panting and praying for mercy. The usual ripening order of the cultivars were heavily influenced by the weather causing red and white grapes to ripen in unison which in turn put a bit more pressure on the cellar.

5 February marked the first day of harvest, 10 days later than last year. We started by picking the Chardonnay at a slightly lower sugar/higher acid concentration to introduce a broader flavour profile into our unwooded Chardonnay. Chardonnay is an interesting grape (and my favourite to work with!). At lower sugar concentrations the flavours lean towards green apples and they evolve into more tropical peach and citrus flavours the riper the grapes get. We picked them very selectively and kept the blocks separate using different commercial yeast strains. The result: I now have 4 different tanks to create the perfect blend!

Our ever popular and stunning Sauvignon Blanc babies were harvested next, just before the first diabolical heat wave hit us! As always this vineyard is a joy to make wine from. The grapes were glowing with perfect health and the flavours bursting with superb concentration.

We welcomed our single vineyard Malbec into the cellar a week afterwards and following just 2 days of cold soaking the colour was a deep magenta. I’m so excited about this wine…it’s going be a stunner.  Next came our Merlot, Pinotage and Shiraz grapes, which all made their way to the cellar in a space of one week resulting in a busy time for the team. After-hour and weekend entertainment included feverish pump-overs, rack and returns and punch downs. During that week we also harvested our petit 1ha block of Chenin Blanc. The yield was an equally tiny 1.5 tons so we are definitely looking forward to an intense wine with loads of flavour.


The following 2 weeks were pretty uneventful. Waiting for the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot to ripen was a bit dreary and the looming rainclouds did not help. When a gap in the weather presented itself we harvested the Cab and although I was concerned about the amount of rain we had prior to picking, the sugars were perfect and the flavours are remarkable.

Today we are pressing our last Cabernet Sauvignon tanks. The Petit Verdot is happily fermenting away and Kelvin, Norman and Rico are busy preparing barrels for filling. What a joy it has been to make wine and be part of the team again a decade after I spent my first harvest here in 2004. I'll be cracking open a bottle of bubbly and saying cheers to a great vintage tonight!

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