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Vintage report 2021

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Merlot 2021

Summary: we can say that in summary, the 2020-21 season was simply dominated by COVID-19. Corona determined how people worked and harvested, when material was available (or not available), when and where wine could be sold, and finally whether it could be sold at all. But first things first!

In the vineyard, the vintage was comparably easy, though more attention had to be paid to the water balance and fungal prevention, but we were rewarded with a super healthy and perfectly ripe crop.

In the cellar, however, we tightened our belts, because local sales and customer visits have practically dropped to zero "thanks" to Corona. So this year we refrained from purchasing new barriques because it was not clear what the future would bring. But that also means that there will be no flagship Merlot from this vintage. Instead, an exquisite Little Merlot - lovers of this wine will be delighted. And as we had time to experiment, we produced our first sparkling wine - from Merlot, of course!

Corona reigns
Reports from the 2020-21 vintage

June 2021 - time to reflect

The time after harvest is always the moment for us to look back on the past vintage, this time in form of a video: Vintage Report 2020-21. Enjoy!

May 2021 - late autumn

In May, we traditionally bottle our rosé as first representative of the new vintage, i.e. the Pink Merlot 2021. Good so, as the previous vintage is sold out and the first export order due for delivery. Weather wise, the long awaited autumn rains finally arrived, with a total of 130mm!

Autumn is also the time of truth: it's the best time to see what the virus status of a vineyard is. Virus status? Exactly, because vineyards also have their virus problems! The most important of all is the leaf roll virus, which can be easily recognized by the red discolored autumn leaves on diseased vines. Interested? Learn more about it in this video here:

April 2021 - hiding in the cellar

After harvest, the real work begins in the cellar: the wines from last year have to be bottled, the new harvest pressed and transferred into barrels, then again and again laboratory tests for quality control, and last but not least our rosé needs attention, too. And there is office work to be done: Updating the cellar books; bottles, corks and labels have to be organized and all processes coordinated - an intensive time, but also satisfactory if everything works out in the end.
Fortunately, there is little to do in the vineyard during this time. The weather is still nice and sunny, and apart from the heavy rain immediately after the harvest, there was no other significant rainfall - actually worrying as April should always bring plenty of rain!?

March 2021 - harvest, just in time!

After this wonderful autumn, we picked the grapes for our red wines on March 8th. The fruit was super healthy, the weather just ideal, dry and cool, and we were able to harvest everything on that one day. Good, because our harvest team was smaller and the process more complicated due to COVID-19 regulations. But good also because only two days later we had heavy rain of 50 mm within only a few hours - imagine how this would have watered down our harvest!

February 2021 - rosy times

This year's moderate temperatures are ideal for the ripening of our Merlot. The grapes are developing to perfection.
So on February 15th, we were able to open our harvest season with a great quality for our rosé wine, super healthy, with fruity flavors and a perfect balance between sugar and acidity. The wine will now be slowly cold-fermented over the next three weeks.

Now we are really looking forward to the main harvest in March!

January 2021 - Veraison

The new year started with a Bang, when our government implemented a third alcohol ban on South Africa in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I.e. again no wine sales for the entire month!

Weather-wise, the temperatures remain in the moderate range, without the actual hot days as is usual here in midsummer. Nevertheless it has become very dry because it has hardly rained for the last two months. Fortunately, it has enough water reserves from the winter time, so that we can now help with additional irrigation.
Veraison, i.e. the color change, was very even and took place in mid-January, around 2 weeks later than the last few years. So we are expecting the main harvest by around mid-March this year.

December 2020 - summer time

Still moderate temperatures characterize this summer and promoted good fruit development. However, mildew infestation (both powdery and downy) popped up in neighboring vineyards, and accordingly proactive canopy management was imperative this year.

Dec. 2020: "green harvest" at Bein Merlot

Admittedly, we had a lot of time for this, as we had practically no visitors to our winery due to Corona! All the guest houses in the Cape remained orphaned, as were all restaurants, safari lodges and other tourist attractions across the country, and local wine sales fell dramatically.
Given the correspondingly surplus stock left in our warehouse, the green harvest due in December was easier for us. With the “green harvest” the quantity is reduced by cutting out excess and late ripening grapes in order to improve the overall quality. And a lot comes together, as the picture above shows!

November 2020 - flowering time

begin of flowering
10th of October 2020: flowering Merlot vine

A decent rain on October 6th brought the vineyard back to action. And in the second week of October, flowering began, which was very even and completed within two weeks.
Temperatures are now getting warmer, and together with the rain, this had a positive effect on development. The canopy is now growing fast and vigorously - lot's of work for us of course, but overall a great season so far!
October 2020 - a cool spring

Bein Merlot on October 15, 2020Bein  Merlot on October 15, 2020

This October was characterized by cool temperatures and little rainfall. The development of the vines is accordingly slow, and flowering is delayed by well two weeks compared to the previous year. So we can keep up easily with the work in the vineyard and the canopy looks very even.

September 2020 - rainy and cold

A miserably cold and rainy September delayed budding by about 2 weeks compared to the long-term average. In return, budding is very even, which is important for an even ripening later in the season. Further good news is that the area's water reservoirs are now mostly full - for the first time since 2014! We look forward to the coming season with confidence.

August 2020 - the new normal!

It looks like the number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa has been falling since early August. So our government showed mercy and changed the lockdown on 17th of August to "Level 2": This means we can sell wine again - Hallelujah! We can also move more freely, but international travel is still not allowed. So unfortunately you cannot visit us in person, but anyone who still wants to look around in Bein Wine Cellar can do so via YouTube - click here for some video clips :-)

At last, the Cape winter has arrived, with colds of even down to 3° C, good for the vineyard as compensation for the relatively warm period from April till June. But at least, there was enough rain! The region's water reservoirs are now on average a good 69% full, with the main reservoir, Theewaterskloof Dam, being 85% full, more than it has been for years.

July 2020 - a further fallback

Unfortunately, our government's corona policy is rather erratic. Any proper forward planning is impossible. On the 12th of July, all alcohol sales were suddenly banned again. Of course, also travelling is restricted and therefore personal cellar tours are unfortunately not possible. But instead, we invite you to come with us on this virtual barrel cellar tour via YouTube (see below :-)

Good news is that this winter finally brought back the usual winter rains, with around 100 mm in July, so that the water dams around the Western Cape are slowly but surely filling up. The temperatures, however, were definitely warmer than usual (min 11 - max. 27 ° C)

June 2020 - the new normal has started

Fortunately, lock down has been further relaxed by 1st of June. The insight, that a hard lock down to contain Covid-19 doesn't really work in South Africa, seems to have prevailed. Gatherings are still forbidden, but as long as you wear a mask and practice social distancing, you can move around to do your business, although only during daytime, but at least. Most businesses have opened again, and even wine can be sold - uff!
Only the virus couldn't be bothered less. Its development is now exponential, the peak is yet to come and there will be many sad things to happen before the curve flattens out - expect another few months of this "new normal"!.

But we have good news on the wine front: We just released the new Pink Merlot 2020 and the Merlot Reserve 2018, which are now available from the farm and soon in our export destinations!

May 2020 - a boer maak a plan

Corona lockdown continues throughout May. Although it has been eased somewhat, there is still a strict curfew and the sale of all "non-essential" consumer goods is banned, such as Flip-flops (!?!), cigarettes(!?) and alcohol! At least we have recently been allowed to export again. Since employees have to stay mostly at home, we roll up our sleeves and do everything ourselves - virtual tastings, racking, bottling and labeling. The videos show how this works with us ;-)

April 2020 - CORONA BLUES

As everywhere else, Corona has turned our world upside down. South Africa is under a complete lockdown since March 26, provisionally until begin of May. Everything is closed except grocery stores. Curiously, all cigarette and alcohol trade is also banned, which even extends to exports. The whole wine industry is paralyzed; we don't even get bottles, which we urgently need to bottle our rosé.

But it is really bad for the poor people here. Many are already living from hand to mouth anyway, but now that all the work is down there is nothing for them to earn and therefore nothing to eat! Of course, relief supplies like food parcels and other support were officially promised, but the authorities are completely overwhelmed. Let's hope that at least they use the time to beef up the medical infrastructure accordingly before the big corona wave is flooding us all.

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