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from vineyard and cellar

Click here for previous vintage reports!

1st of March 2024 - Topping off!

On March 1st the time had finally come and we were able to harvest the crop for our red wine at optimal ripeness.
This is always followed by an intensive time in the cellar, with the vinification of the new harvest, with the transfer and preparation of the previous year's barrel wines and finally with the bottling, labelling and release of the new wines into the trade. This must be well planned, materials must be obtained in a timely manner and the work must be well organised to ensure optimal treatment of the wines. But the joy is even greater when everything has worked out once again and there is another good vintage in the cellar!
And last but not least, we are pleased that we got through the harvest very well with our solar system, without power interruptions and, above all, in an environmentally friendly way :-)

February 2024 - Waiting for the right moment

As dry as the last few months have been, there were several rainy days in February, the ripening month, though with never much rainfall at once, but a total of 26mm. Thanks to our southern slope location and proximity to the sea, the temperatures here were within the usual range, with cool nights (14-18°) and warm days (25 - max. 35°), but further inland the winegrowers complained about extremely hot days. Accordingly, the ripening process slowed down for us, but this ultimately benefited the quality of the grapes, as we will see.
However, we had a different problem this year: a huge flock of starlings was infesting our area and pecking through our vineyard every day, which of course reduces our yield and means even more work when sorting out - well, there's always something ;-)

January 2024 - an early start to the harvest

After three dry months with comparatively moderate temperatures, things got really warm around the turn of the year, with temperatures up to 35° each time.
The harvest finally started earlier than ever before, on January 12th with the grapes for our Bubbly. The quality was great, the grapes with small, concentrated berries, which promises a lot for a great red wine harvest. And as it began, it continued, namely at high speed, with the grapes for our Rosé already coming in on January 29th!

December 2023 - we're going off-grid!

Anyone who follows developments in South Africa knows about the problems of Eskom, our state-owned electricity supplier. Eskom is plagued by corruption and mismanagement, produces with a totally outdated infrastructure and is over-indebted to the tune of 400 billion Rand. After the problems started in 2008, things have gotten worse in recent years, with several daily electrical outages - here euphemistically called "load-shedding" - of 2 to 4 to 6 hours each, which makes life very difficult. So we started early on, first with a diesel-generator, then in 2012 with some solar panels and a battery as an emergency back-up. But now we have taken the plunge, greatly expanded our solar system and kissed Eskom good-by. To top it all off, we also switched to an electric car and are now sailing into the future with exclusively green energy - by the way, as far as we know, as the only wine farm in South Africa. What a great start into 2024!

Weather-wise, December continued to be rather cool and dry, with only a short rain (1.5mm) in the last week of the year. However, thanks to the rainy winter, the soil had enough water reserves, so we didn't have to irrigate for the first time until the end of December. This was at the same time as the onset of veraison, the color change, which came significantly earlier this year, corresponding to the early budding.

October-November 2023

As wet as the winter was, it has now become very dry: in October it only drizzled once with a total of 1 mm of precipitation, while in November we had a few showers, though with a total of just under 25 mm. But that was apparently enough to encourage downy mildew in some parts of the wine country, which needed special attention. The temperatures, however, were moderate, so our vines have developed ideally so far, with good fruit set and beautifully balanced foliage.

September 2023

Throughout September, the weather remains wet and cold! And as I write this, on September 24th and 25th, severe storms with torrential rain are sweeping across the Western Cape. As a result, there were dams bursting, widespread power cuts and flooding of streets, low-lying settlements and townships. Almost 200mm of rain poured down on Stellenbosch on that weekend (read here more about it).
Yet interesting enough, the vines are budding much earlier this year, despite the cold weather. A reason could be our earlier pruning, but maybe they simply had enough cold-units and are now longing for an early spring like we are.

August 2023

The early onset of winter meant we were able to start our winter work earlier. So by now, all the vines have already been pruned and we would actually be ready for spring. But the weather remains wet and cold!
A touch of sunshine brought about our trip to Switzerland for a stylish Wine & Dine in the beautiful Wenkenhof Villa in our hometown of Basel - with the most sunny summer weather :-)

June-July 2023: is this the deluge?

After the autumn rains already came early at the beginning of March, it was only the first sign of the deluge, that was to come! Around 600mm of rain has already fallen here since, more than ever before in this short period of time. Driveways were washed out and vineyards damaged by mud slides, and even in Stellenbosch town some quarters were under water. And all this at unusually low temperatures. The returning El Nino shows his muscles!

Review of the season 2022-23

We once again look gratefully back to a good, if not always easy year!

It started with a unusually warm and dry winter, though followed by a very wet and cold August. Budding took place earlier but evenly, and the subsequent shoot development was rather slow, in tune with the dry and cool spring weather. All in all good conditions, if only it hadn't been so dry! That's why we had to apply a supplementary irrigation already at the end of October to support the delicate flowering process. Luckily, heavy rain in the first week of December brought some relief, but also increased the risk of fungal diseases during this particularly vulnerable period. Except for this one shot of rain, however, the season remained dry until the early autumn rains set in, of all things, at the main harvest time. Although we were able to harvest just in time, this was a problem for many fellow winemakers, especially with late-ripening varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. Nevertheless, great wines are expected of this vintage, as long as they have been harvested before the rains.

April - May - an early winter

The cold, wet weather that set in already early in March continued throughout the following months. However, we are currently busy with cellar work. Firstly, we (finally again ;-) bottled a Merlot Forte, namely from the 2021 vintage, i.e. after two years barrel maturation. Then of course the Merlot 2022, and also the new MCC 2023  has been put into bottle for the second fermentation. And lastly our youngest wine, the Pink Merlot 2023, had to be bottled and prepared for release as a good forerunner for this vintage.

Last but not least, the MCC 2022, which our customers have been waiting for impatiently, had to be labeled and certified - and we can report that it was very well received!

March 2023 - Harvest for the Reds

As every year, we divided our vineyard into smaller terroirs with the help of remote sensing. The happier growing lots were harvested early for the MCC and the Rosé, while the sectors we have earmarked for red wine production were ready for harvest in early March. So we began harvesting for the reds on Friday, March 3rd, happily and in the most beautiful weather. However, an unexpected bad weather front suddenly drove us to hurry, and we decided at short notice to bring in the rest in an extra effort the next day, Saturday - a rather unusual action in South Africa, where weekends are sacrosanct. But it was worth it, and we were able to bring in all our grapes healthy and dry - that continuous rain that started only a few hours later would have watered down our wines for good.

Of course, there was a lot more to do in March beside harvesting. The wines from previous vintages had to be prepared for bottling and - good news for our Bubbly fans - the 2022 MCC had to be disgorged, i.e. the yeast deposits that had formed in the bottle during the second fermentation had to be removed. So we never got bored ;-)

February 2023 - Harvest begins!

As in the past two years, harvest started with the grapes for our Sparkling Merlot on January 25th. Such an early harvest is necessary in order to achieve the quality required for the base wine, with low alcohol and a crispy acidity. Two weeks later, on February 8th, we brought in the grapes for our Pink Merlot.
Overall, this year's harvest is well a week earlier than usual, and with evenly ripened grapes of super quality.
After the growing season was very dry so far apart from the downpour in mid-December,  there was eventually another nice rain of 23 mm on February 20th, refreshing the vines in their final sprint to full ripeness. But this should also delay the process a bit, so that we now expect the harvest of the grapes for our red wines to be in the second week of March.

January 2023

With the beginning of the new year, veraison started, the change in color of the grapes. As even and quick flowering was, as quickly was this phase, too, a good sign for qualitatively and quantitatively excellent harvest :-)
However, not all colleagues had the same luck. As the winegrowers' association reported at the end of January, the 2023 harvest will be below average, with uneven fruit development and even hail damage in some districts, as well as fungal disease pressure due to the unusual weather conditions, and the additional problem of load shedding, the current rampant power failures in the country, which makes irrigation scheduling very difficult.

November - December 2022

Flowering, which started in the very last days of October, was very even and completed within a few days only. The fruit set was generous, which allowed us later to trim the fruit generously in order to achieve an optimal distribution of the grapes on the vines.
The weather continued as the year had started, with moderate temperatures but very little rainfall! Luckily there was a heavy downpour of 45mm in mid-December, very welcome to the vines which have established in the meantime a strong and healthy canopy.

September - October 2022 : Spring has sprung!

September 2022 continued with rather cool temperatures and little precipitation. Nevertheless, budding was even and started in mid-September, around 7-10 days earlier than usual. Subsequent shoot development was very leisurely, in line with the dry and cool weather. So we could easily catch up with the usual work, such as breaking out excess shoots and cleaning of the stems. All in all ideal conditions, if only it hadn't been so unusually dry! So we decided to apply a supplementary irrigation cycle already at the end of October to support the flowering of the vines.

July-August 2022: Cape Winter!

2022 has been a dry year so far. From January to July it rained around 70% less than in the same period in the last 10 years. Fortunately, August brought not only biting cold, but also more rain than usual, so that the soil is finally saturated and the region's water reservoirs are beginning to fill up again. At the end of August the dam of our main supplier Thewaterskloof was a good 80% full :-)

Previous reports have been condensed to vintage reports for each year and can be looked up there.