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Vintage report 2017

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Merlot 2017

In a nutshell, the season 2016-17 was again characterized by drought, now for the second year in a row. However, like a miracle on January 27th, we got a wonderful rain, 50mm in a single day! This was the perfect timing to boost berry ripening, and the vines did very well through the warm autumn months until harvest - Thank you, Petrus!
Harvest itself began on February 21 with the Rosé, and the grapes for the red wine came in two weeks later. Like the years before, the fruit was particularly healthy and evenly ripe. Surprisingly, the sugar levels were pleasingly moderate, at the same time with a good pH and acidity, which we attributed to the comparably cooler temperatures during the ripening season.
Of this vintage, we produced the following wines:

Vintage Report 2016-17

May 2017

After MLF was so swiftly completed, we could rack the new wines already during May for the first time. Racking means, to syphon the young wine from the barrels into a tank, leaving all impurities and sediments behind, cleaning the barrels, and eventually filling the wine back into barrels again. This is an operation to naturally clarify the wines, at the same time allowing some aeration, which contributes positively to its development.
At the end of May, we also bottled the Pink Merlot 2017, and released it as the first representative of this vintage.

April 2017

In the cellar, everything went smooth, and the wines came into barrel at the end of March. Last (but not least), we vinified the Merlot Forte, our speciality wine made from partially dried grapes. This fermentation requires particular attention, in order to ensure that it runs through until to the end. In the meantime, the red wines in barrel undergo the so-called malolactic fermentation (MLF), in which the somewhat sharper malic acid is converted into milder lactic acid. This is sometimes a critical process, though didn't cause any hick-ups this year again, and MLF was swiftly completed in all barrels by the end of the month.

21 Feb - 8 March 2017: Harvest time

Harvest 2017 begun for us on 21st of February. As always, we picked the fruit for our rosé earlier, for crispier acidity and fresher red-berry flavors. The grapes for the red wines were harvested two weeks later, at full maturity. As ripening  was very even throughout the entire vineyard, we harvested everything together, on 7th and 8th March. Like in the previous year, the fruit was extremely healthy and evenly ripe. Ballings, however, were surprisingly lower together with a good pH and acidity, which we attribute to the comparably cooler temperatures during the ripening season. The video-clip gives you an impression of this years harvest, in which we actually used for the first time our new drone :-)

February 2017

A really good rain of 50mm at the end of January brought much needed relieve from the current draught in the Cape Winelands. So we looked forward to a perfect ripening of our grapes. Of course this has to be monitored personally. The video below gives you an impression of this grueling work ;-)

January 2017

Veraison of Bein Merlot on 1 January 2017On time with the New Year came the first signs of veraison, the change in colour of our grapes. Accordingly, the harvest for the red wine 2017 can be expected in the second week of March, which is again slightly earlier than the long-term average.
With the New Year, however, fearful bush fires have also flared up in various places, a consequence of the persistent drought, additionally fuelled by now stronger winds. In this first week of 2017, over 4000 hectares of land, mainly wild bush, but also farmland and vineyards, as well as several houses burnt down in the Stellenbosch area - a catastrophe for nature, humans and animals.

November-December 2016

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As reported, the annual snail plague troubled us again at the beginning of the season. But now, we are using a new weapon to fight it, namely runner ducks. Their favorite food is snails, ideal for our vineyard! We swiftly built a duck-yard around the little pond near the cellar and bought a few birds from a neighboring farm. And after some hick-ups (!) in the beginning, they are now really chasing snails wherever they are. We are now even looking forward to the next (snail)season!
"Naturally" we used again our other tried and tested biological weapons this year, with the regular release of thousands of parasitic wasps and ladybird beetles against mealybugs. And it seems to work: so far we haven't seen a single mealybug yet.
Weather-wise, it is as dry as before. So far, we recorded just 40mm of rain during the first three months of Oct-Dec, not even half as much as the long-term average in Stellenbosch (84mm). On the plus side, it has been a particularly healthy year, with relatively little wind and moderate temperatures. So the signs are good for another great harvest.

October 2016: a dry start

After a rather dry winter with significantly lower rainfall than usual, Spring didn't bring much relief neither, with only little rain up to now. We are facing water restrictions and hope that El Ninja will win over El Nino and brings the much needed change!
October always keeps us busy with suckering, the removal of excessive growth and shoots from stem and cordons. It is a time-consuming work, and concentration and a good eye is needed to distinguish the unwanted suckerers from the "good" shoots, which will eventually bear the grapes. And the work must be done quickly in order to finish in time, as the shoots grow now fast during this time of the year.

September 2016: Spring

First signs of budbreak in our vineyard were observed by mid of September, for us the launch of the new vintage! This is usually followed by an intense time in the vineyard. This year, we suffered particularly under an attack of snails - the white dune snail (Theba pisana). It is actually an alien invader from Southern Europe and a real pest in certain spots. As budding is starting, we had to free the vines by hand. On one day, we collected 38 kg of them, which amounts to over 40’000 snails!

August 2016: Purple is the flavor of the month!

August saw us labeling and releasing our latest vintages; and with it comes our newest child, the Merlot Forte 2014.It is a novelty wine made from partly dried grapes and matured for two years in tight-grain 2nd-fill French oak barrels. It is a powerful wine with a strong character, concentrated and intensely flavored, a protagonist on its own.
Bein Merlot Forte 2014
Hand-picked on 22nd of March 2014, carefully selected bunches were laid out in special drying crates and allowed to partly raisin in the open air. Once the grapes have lost 30% of their weight, they were gently destemmed and fermented on the skins during three weeks. The wine was then set to mature in 225L French oak barrique for 24 months. It was bottled on 15 April 2016, unfined and only gently filtered.
Naturally, as the grapes shrivel, sugars, acids, tannins, flavors and other components concentrate, which gives this wine its distinctive bold character and naturally high alcohol. This makes it the ultimate wine to crown a gourmet meal, to complement a rich dessert or mature cheese; or simply enjoy on its own :-)

July 2016: Pruning

Pruning is an important step in developing the coming harvest. It might look simple, but a lot of thoughts go into it...I would actually call it my most thoughtful work at all. It would fit into any business manager's training: every cut a decision, 1000 decisions a day...

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