2003 harvest in Swartland and Tulbagh

The Swartland may be off the beaten track for wine tourists, but it's increasingly regarded by the industry as a source of premium - particularly red - grapes. And while many vintners have harvested, distracting them from ferments to take phonecalls is still problematic as ever.

The big Tulbagh news is from Twee Jonge Gezellen, where Nicky Krone quipped that he's 'late harvesting' at the tail end. So enraptured was he with the maiden crop of Petit Verdot and second crop of Shiraz, that he forgot to mention a financially-damaging fire two weeks ago, that razed a prime Pinot Noir vineyard. Wife Mary reported this from her hospital bed where it's business as usual, despite an agonising back injury! Fortunately Tulbagh's season has been 'long and protracted' and the pHs on the bubbly-destined Pinot and Chardonnay are excellent.

At lesser-known Montpellier, Jan Theron is making their second commercial vintage, despite dealing with a myriad of varieties destined for bulk wine. He says 2003 is generally showing a quantity and quality increase. Both a red and white (the latter from free run only) Pinot Noir in third-fill oak will result from the 2003 vintage. Their first crop of Cabernet Sauvignon is being harvested this week.

Closer to Riebeeck Kasteel, Kloovenburg Vineyards started harvesting Chardonnay on January 25 and brought the last Shiraz in during early March. Pieter du Toit says he's still fermenting and pressing, and that 2003 has showed a similar crop and conditions to 2002. 'Quality is very good this year, but I normally don't speak before the wine is in bottle,' he states, nodding towards Chardonnay and Shiraz in particular.

Over in Darling Hills, Lukas Wentzel is picking his last Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot at Groote Post. 'Overall 2003 has been moderate in climate, enough rain but no rot, and not too cold or hot. In a way, quite perfect, as we've all had ripeness at lower sugars, so we should see lower-alcohol wines resulting.' Wentzel is particularly upbeat about Pinot Noir and Shiraz.

At nearby Cloof, Christopher van Dieren's harvest is in the fermenting tank or barrel. He reckons production is up 30%, especially Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and positively notes cooler nights contributing to lower-alcohol wines. 'I'm very surprised that my best Pinotage block - which usually produced 3,5 tons - is up to 7 tons. Berries are smaller, so there is good concentration, particularly with Cabernet and Merlot.'

Albert Ahrens has put kuipe through their ferments for Lammershoek's third vintage in little-known Malmesbury's hills. Expect exciting Rhône-inspired red and white blends from 2003's 'good' vintage, aside from their last Cabernet Sauvignon just picked. Four-year-old Grenache now in full production, is being blended with old-vine Carignan, Shiraz and some Viognier skins. In whites, Chenin Blanc is dominating a barrel-fermented blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Hungarian Hárslevelü. It's no surprise to hear such Rhône talk, when considered that Eben Sadie is making micro-boutique Columella wine in a hand-constructed 'bodega' on the same land. 

He won't commit himself about 2003, but samples of Sadie Family's 2002 barrels, and 2003 ferments, are tasting mighty interesting.
This article was sponsored by Distell WineNews Service