2008 Harvest Report (continues)

Robertson / continues 

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Good acidities in the whites, good colour and extract on the reds (Goedverwacht). Much more promising than anticipated; reds outstanding (Robertson Winery). "Quality outstanding on both reds and whites. It all depended on the level of attention to detail and ability to be flexible this year. Fixed thinking and generalisations gave poor results." Irene Waller, Graham Beck. "The results look good but 2008 would not have forgiven convenience winemaking. It was a year that tested commitment and dedication. You had to be spot on with the time of harvest and selection of the best grapes." Philip Jonker, Weltevrede.




WINTER 2007 Cold, wet and long. Rain between April/August highest for 20 years in some parts of the region; filled dams and water table. Good cold spells ensured full dormancy, also killed most bugs.


SPRING 2007 Cool; bi-weekly rain continued during growing season, "...which produced vigour and happy vines," reports Kevin Arnold; also disease pressure. Budding in some parts between 10-14 days late. Strong south-easter resulted in natural crop thinning on higher vineyards. Rain and wind had negative effect on pollination, especially Merlot, Malbec (Spier) and also made canopy management difficult to control. Higher humidity led to increased chewing pest risk but mildew was offset by windier than normal conditions (Quoin Rock).


EARLY SUMMER 2008 Cool, with intermittent rain till mid-January, then a week of heat wave. Overall pleasant, because harvest was later, ample time to maintain vine canopies, which made harvest easier (Blaauwklippen). New weather station enabled us to spray in right conditions, no problems with mildew. More wind south-west (Jordan). Extreme winds in December, resulting in shoot and leaf loss on S/SE facing slopes but also beneficially prevented mildew. Only three anti-fungal sprays during spring/early summer, most as a result of better airflow through canopies, less vigorous vines (Quoin Rock). Rain led to excessive growth, demanding more canopy management (Sterhuis). Excessive January winds dried out topsoil/stressed vines (Waterford).


HARVEST 2008 Mid-February's thunderstorm, high humidity, no wind and subsequent heavy rain. "Drying ripe Sauvignon and Gewürztraminer was an urgent challenge, which we met by running the spray pumps through the vineyards with only the fans blowing," remembers Delheim's Victor Sperling. Such ingenuity saved the day and the grapes. Great number of days above 30°C than the previous four years (Rustenberg). Overall temp not too bad, just two little heat waves; nighttime temps above average (Spier). Early March rain saw rot in thin-skinned reds: Merlot, Cabernet franc and especially Shiraz. Beautiful warm days to finish harvest for Cabs, Petit verdot.



CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Difficult weather conditions throughout season required 25% more labour hours in vineyard, often at weekend (Waterford). High disease pressure/vigour coping with higher daily volumes in cellar, sorting grapes. "Mentally, physically, emotionally the most challenging vintage to date," sighs Johan Kruger of Sterhuis. All varieties ripening at once stretched manpower in vineyards/capacity in cellar (Rustenberg). Needing to pick more stressed/exposed sections before majority of block (Quoin Rock). Long harvest with 35% more volume; high pHs because of longer hang time (Laibach). Periods of quick ripening, then three weeks when sugars stayed the same. Some Cabernets struggled with fermentation, nutrient deficiency (Kanonkop)? Shortage of CO2 and dry ice for a month (Kaapzicht). Patience in the cellar as harvest started late but finished on time, managing tank space efficiently (Ernie Els). Slower ripening resulted in late picking and consequent high sugars/high 15.5% alcohols (Blaauwklippen). Later reds suffered more as warmer March meant they had to be harvested fast and furiously, which led to elevated Ballings towards end (Kanu).


POSITIVES Moderate water stress arrived later, was more easily managed; spontaneous ferment started as normal/finished in 20 days, as did malolactic (Blaauwklippen). Lower alcohols (Delheim; Jordan; Kanonkop, Kanu; Laibach; L'Avenir; Meerlust/Foundry; Quoin Rock; Reyenke; Rustenberg; Spier; Waterford)).Cooler growing season, loads of flavour in whites, good colour in reds (Hidden Valley). Slow ripening, less stress for the winemaker (Kaapzicht). Supple elegant tannins (Laibach). Great varietal expression on Pinot, Merlot, Syrah (Meerlust/Foundry). Lovely fruit purity, tight/mineral wines that will develop with age; good colour, aromas, flavour, tannin across the board (Tokara). Improved phenolic ripeness, better acidity, good balance (Villiera). Good quality fruit, refined tannins (Waterford).


BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon blanc (Hidden Valley, Kanu - intense flavours; L'Avenir - fantastic flavours with good natural acid; Mulderbosch - complex; Villiera - ripened between heat/rain with no botrytis, plenty of flavour; Waterford - great fruit/minerality, lower alcohols). Chardonnay (Hartenberg - elegant, fresh, lifted fruit; small concentrated berries; Laibach - great analysis, lovely ripe flavours, minerality, lower alcohol, and with "...a good crop to keep the bank manager happy," smiles Francois van Zyl; L'Avenir - fantastic flavours with good natural acids; Mulderbosch - structure, fullness, fruit a real stunner; Rustenberg - ripeness at lower sugar, good acid; Waterford - great fruit, minerality, lower alcohols). Chenin blanc (Kaapzicht; Kanu - intense flavours; L'Avenir - fantastic flavours with good natural acids; Sterhuis). Cabernet sauvignon (Blaauwklippen - complex, finesse; Graham Beck; Jordan - great structure; L'Avenir - clean fruit, soft tannins; Mulderbosch rich fruit, big, soft tannins; Rustenberg - healthy gapes, lower sugar, great acid; Villiera - phenolic ripeness; Waterford - good mid palate, lower alcohol levels). Shiraz (Ernie Els - good structure, lower alcohol; Graham Beck; Hartenberg - broad flavours, soft, ripe tannins; Foundry - great varietal definition, minerality, perfume, acid; Mulderbosch - peppery; Quoin Rock - balance, fruit purity; Reyenke; Spier - good fruit, structure; Waterford - good mid palate, lower alcohol levels). Tannat (Hidden Valley - sweet fruit, soft tannins; Reyneke - cool season). Merlot (Jordan; Kanu - bright cherry flavours, lovely tannins; Laibach - great fruit, colour, silky tannins; Meerlust - opulence, depth). Pinotage (Kanonkop; Laibach - low alcohol, pitch black, juicy; L'Avenir - clean fruit, soft tannins; Spier - good fruit, structure). Cabernet franc (Kanu - lower alcohol, best ever; Reyenke).


LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon blanc (Kaapzicht - due to shortage of dry ice/C02; Kanu - neutral; Laibach - heat/rain neutral). Chardonnay (Meerlust - some botrytis/lower crop). Chenin blanc (Jordan - sour rot meant significant crop losses with this variety; Kanu - unripe with rot; Spier - rot, little flavour; Villiera - rot). Semillon (Rustenberg - unbalanced, lacks concentration). Cabernet sauvignon (Mulderbosch - heat over Easter caused the sugar levels to go crazy; higher blocks (approximately one third of Cabernet) have 15%+ alcohol. Laibach - January rain caused bigger berries, lack of colour; ferments also difficult; Spier - early blocks). Zinfandel (Blaauwklippen - sour rot, crop loss of 35%). Malbec (Blaauwklippen - bigger berries, less concentration; Waterford - heavier bunches, too much vigour). Cabernet Franc (Ernie Els - poor colour). Merlot (Kanonkop - uneven ripening; Morgenhof - bigger berries/less concentration; Mulderbosch - unripe tannins; Quoin Rock; Reyenke - bird damage; Rustenberg; Spier - early blocks). Pinotage (Reyenke - mildew). Shiraz (Villiera - botrytis "for the first time ever", says an amazed Jeff Grier).



CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS Above average (Blaauwlippen - 15% up overall, specifically Malbec, Cabernet franc; Ernie Els. L'Avenir - reds 30% higher due to vineyards reaching full production and clean fruit; overall 20% higher than 2007; Waterford). Normal (Hartenberg, Hidden Valley, Kaapzicht, Kanonkop, except for large Pinotage crop, Laibach, Rustenberg, Villiera). Down (Jordan - because of rot in Chenin; Meerlust - 5% a function of practices; Mulderbosch - 5% overall, 15% on Sauvignon blanc, Cabernet sauvignon; Spier - 5%). Low (Tokara - especially reds). And from biodynamically farmed Reyenke, Johan Reyenke reports "good six tons-plus/hectare yields from biodynamic vineyards but four tons/ha for newly purchased conventionally farmed."


OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Very good (Hartenberg). Excellent (Jordan, worth the gamble of waiting, except Chenin). Chenin good, other whites useable, reds looking good (Kaapzicht). Good to very good reds (Laibach). Very good (L'Avenir). Earlier drinking reds with good weight great balance (Waterford). Whites, reds above average; later ripening reds good, bubbly base very good (Villiera). Average with the good stuff looking outstanding (Tokara). Cool climate vintage, lower alcohol, pHs; "The wines have the Burgundy effect - power with finesse," enthuses Johan Kruger (Sterhuis). Very high, warmer climate varieties show immense promise (Spier). Very excited (Rustenberg). Really good, long cool season made a positive difference (Reyneke). Fantastic, great tasting wines from great tasting fruit (Quoin Rock). "I think people are going to love drinking 2008 wines," reckons Morgenhof's Jacques Cilliers. Fresh vibrant, supple wines with poise and longevity, lower alcohols (Meerlust/Foundry).






WINTER 2007 Double annual rainfall; cold but little snow, which came late in the season.

SPRING 2007 Cool with occasional rain, which gave the vines a knock during flowering; slow growth and cell development in the bunches.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Cooler than usual but none of the rain which fell closer to the coast, apart from a December shower or two, which relieved the need for irrigation.

HARVEST 2008 Rain end February, then heat and south-easterly wind. With the later harvest, came moderate days and cool nights.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Keeping an eagle eye on ripening. Harvest started 10 days later than 2007, Rijks' Pierre Wahl remembers: "The early varieties ripened later, and Semillon, a late ripener, was ready with the early varieties." Things went back to normal until rain towards the end of February with heat, which caused the Shiraz and Cabernet sauvignon to ripen at the same time (Rijks). ‘The Vintage of the 10 Plagues of Tulbagh' is how TMV's Callie Louw describes 2008: "Baboons (ever present), oidium (mid-spring to early summer), botrytis (just before harvest), rain, heat, and birds (just before harvest). That is only seven but the baboons count for three!" In the cellar, the labour-intensive, slow task of sorting grapes - half-a-ton per hour.

POSITIVES Cooler conditions led to phenolic ripeness at lower sugars, meaning lower alcohol wines (Rijks). Awesome weather towards the end of ripening, giving real concentration with good analyses (TMV).

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon blanc, Chenin banc, Pinotage and Cabernet sauvignon (Rijks). Syrah, Mourvèdre (TMV - can handle heat and had the least disease pressure). Chenin blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Grenache blanc (TMV - all from the Swartland with amazing flavours, acidity).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Cabernet sauvignon (TMV - problems with oidium).

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS Average (Rijks). Very small, due to weather conditions (TMV).

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Looks very good; concentrated wines with elegance and freshness (TMV). Bit early to say but some whites and reds look superb (Rijks).