2008 Harvest Report

The report was compiled by Angela Lloyd for Wines of South Africa


If 2008 has been dubbed by many 'the viticulturist's harvest' due to the challenging weather conditions, an equal number of winemakers would claim it was also 'the winemaker's harvest', given its length and the dedication required in the cellar to ensure only 100% healthy grapes made it into the fermentation tanks. This in addition to the frequent occurrence of many varieties ripening simultaneously, which stretched cellar capacity and human endurance.

Winter 2007 was just what the doctor ordered with copious rain and cold from May, early in the season, which boded well for even budding. Dams were overflowing and ground water levels substantially replenished after years of drought. Only in the Klein Karoo did the heavy rain arrive later in November.

Continued rain in spring was accompanied by cooler than usual temperatures. Positively, Distell's viticulturist, Dirk Bosman notes: "A rainy spring and wet weather conditions that continued well into January benefited our dryland vineyards and those that would normally have received supplementary irrigation." These conditions also encouraged extremely vigorous growth; controlling this proved an early challenge for the viticulturists. Disease pressure was counteracted by the cool weather, wind in some areas and preventative spraying regimes which reflected lessons learned from the extreme disease pressure in spring 2002!

Rain was also an unseasonal feature across all the regions in the grape ripening period; most unusual was a mid-February thunderstorm, preceded by tropical-like humidity; Bosman sums up the challenge of every producer: "Rain and humidity did pose the threat of grey and sour rot, as well as downy mildew. This placed enormous pressure on viticulturists and vineyard staff to manage canopies with the utmost vigilance, ensuring sufficient aeration to curtail the likelihood of disease."

The remainder of February was fine, if cool, and on average the harvest started 10 days to two weeks late; these conditions allowed the grapes to ripen slowly and to full ripeness while retaining good acid levels.

Winemakers were kept on their toes as, in keeping with the very different weather, varieties ripened out of sequence and much sorting was required at the cellar to ensure only healthy grapes made it into the fermentation vats. The usual Cape summer temperatures eventually arrived in March, the ripening process gathered momentum and many varieties were ready for harvesting simultaneously, putting pressure on cellar capacity and stretching human resources.

While the SAWIS estimate of 30 April shows an increased crop in every region except the Klein Karoo and a total of 1 419 019 tons for 2008, individual intakes vary widely, depending on the negative effects of wind during flowering and rot, as well as the positives of new bearing vineyards.

Generally, white varieties did well, showing good fruit purity, freshness and structure. Many reds too had no problem in reaching good phenolic ripeness with purity of fruit and supple tannins. Possibly the best news, encountered across the winelands, comes from Dirk Bosman: "A very positive feature of this year's vintage is that we are able to produce many of our reds at lower alcohol levels, close to the 13% mark. This is thanks to a combination of climatic conditions and viticultural protocols established to promote ripening with a good balance between sugars, acids and tannins."

Flagstone and Kumala's Bruce Jack, who takes in grapes and wine from every region bar the Orange River, is well placed to summarise the 2008 vintage as a whole: "On the positive side there is amazing elegance common to most varieties across most regions. I think, in the right hands, we will see some exceptional, elegant and long-lived white wines out of the cooler areas - the best whites for decades and the most elegant reds for a very long time."

Below are alphabetically listed reports from individual regions.




WINTER 2007 Cold with ground-soaking rain, good dormancy.

SPRING 2007 Cool and wet with early vigorous growth.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Cool with more south-easterly wind than 2007. Rain after fruit set resulted in rapid growth of berries; dry till veraison, slowing down growth.

HARVEST 2008 Heat wave in early February followed by cooler weather and lots of south-easterly wind.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Constantly checking vines for mildew, especially around flowering; knowing each block's susceptibility; using softer products to control disease. "Each year is a challenge in the cellar to capture the essence of the grapes with as little fiddling as possible; no concentrators or the like, here, just the grapes as they are on the vine," advises winemaker Sebastian Beaumont. His 2008 annual 'new cellar invention' was a piece of shade cloth in the press drip tray, which he happily reports, "worked like a bomb catching solids".

POSITIVES A really great team of harvesters and cellar helpers; they can make or break a vintage. Fantastic grapes, despite the challenging season.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Chenin blanc - a little riper than wished for but fresh, lively flavours and great acid. Pinotage - stomped to a pulp, followed by a short,  hot ferment, a most interesting result.

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, except for a few great batches, the most frustrating.


OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) A challenging year like 1997 but the wines will be lovely - fantastic!




WINTER 2007 A typical cold, wet Boland winter with regular snowfalls; sufficient cold units to send the vines into dormancy, and irrigation dams at the highest levels in years.

SPRING 2007 Regular windy conditions alternated with rain. Good, even budding; disease- and frost-free.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Only towards the end of December did the daytime temperatures rise, but these were not as extreme as in other years; nights remained cold. Strong south-easterly winds during January, moderate temperatures. Ideal conditions prior to harvest.

HARVEST 2008 Rain at the start of harvest saw some botrytis develop. Unusually, March was warmer than February.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Managing rot early in the season and harvesting at an acceptable ripeness without quality negatively affected by rot. In the cellar, juice settling required a larger quantity of pectolytic enzymes due to rot (group report). Harvesting took a long time as grapes had to be carefully sorted, separating the healthy grapes from the rest. Several varieties ripened together (Deetlefs).

POSITIVES Excellent growth season, no excessive heat waves during harvest. Slow ripening, higher natural acid in reds and extended harvest allowed for each variety to be picked at a high level of optimum ripeness.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Chardonnay (group report - particularly full, complex and concentrated; Bergsig). Colombard (group report - striking guava, apple and tropical fruit, balanced, medium body). Cabernet sauvignon (Bergsig - full bodied, elegant) Chenin Blanc (Deetlefs - fruity, good mouthfeel, backbone). Pinotage (Bergsig, Deetlefs - fruity, soft but well-structured tannins).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Chenin blanc (group report - some blocks, due to rot; Bergsig - rot). Sauvignon blanc (group report - some blocks less full, complex; Bergsig - blocks harvested after 9 February less complex; Deetlefs). Semillon (group report - some blocks less full, complex). Riesling (Bergsig - rot). Cabernet sauvignon (Deetlefs - didn't reach full ripeness).

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS 10% down overall, with Chenin blanc and Riesling 30% off due to rot (Bergsig).

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Very good to exceptional red wine season; average to under average white wine season (group report, Bergsig). Good fruit, balanced tannins and elegance in both whites and reds (Deetlefs).




WINTER 2007 Cooler and wetter than usual.

SPRING 2007 Cool weather persisted, enabling late pruning and even budding. Higher humidity levels but mildew risk was offset by windier than usual conditions.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Persistent winds during growth controlled vigour and kept mildew under check during periods of regular rainfall. Temperatures were milder than usual.

HARVEST 2008 Mild weather and winds delayed the harvest by two to three weeks.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Sauvignon blanc suffered from rot and snout beetle, the latter residing in the mountain fynbos round Quoin Rock's vineyards. Two troops of baboons, numbering over 100 each, and birds caused the usual damage. Wind burn and stress occurred in south-east facing rows and slopes

POSITIVES Good fruit set with healthy bunches; lovely fruit purity with high natural acidities. "The 2008 vintage stood out particularly with the weather conditions experienced over the ripening period. This allowed the grapes to mature more slowly and naturally produced optimum ripeness," according to Wayne Gabb, wine-grower in charge of Lomond's vineyards.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Chardonnay (Quoin Rock - from protected lower slopes, clean, quality fruit). Merlot (Quoin Rock - vigour was controlled, the fruit full of flavour.) Sauvignon Blanc (Lomond - great varietal character, high natural acids and maturation potential).

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS Sauvignon blanc disappointing due to natural enemies (Quoin Rock).

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Great varietal character in whites




WINTER 2007 Highest rainfall in 10 years, all of which fell in a very short period.

SPRING 2007 Cool with little frost damage. Good flowering with little wind.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 High end January temperatures caused no damage since the harvest was delayed by two weeks.

HARVEST 2008 Moderate temperatures and no rain.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Attention in the vineyards is the clue to a successful vintage. Crop control and patience were necessary.

POSITIVES Not a sign of rot. Reds reached good phenolic ripeness.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Very good Chenin blanc. One of the best years for Cabernet and Shiraz. Last Cabernet harvested mid-April with excellent ripeness/analysis.

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon blanc, but will be a good average.


OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) David Nieuwoudt sums up 2008 as "A long, tiring harvest but one I won't mind having again."




WINTER 2007 Highest rainfall in 10 years, "which fell in biblical proportions", as Klein Constantia's Adam Mason graphically describes it. Cold, wet weather started in May, ideal for even budding, good dormancy.

SPRING 2007 Cool with a lot of rain and wind, negative for flowering. Budding was even and good but late, cool soil temperatures delaying start of root growth.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Still cool which delayed growth. Cape Point's Duncan Savage reports main growth surge happened in January as opposed to early December. Wind his side of the Peninsula mountain chain was contrasted by high humidity with a few heavy showers in Constantia; disease pressure was high. February, usually the hottest month, was very cool; March was much drier and hot.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Controlling vigour, mildew and rot was the general focus, though Savage says the wind his side prevented rot until March. At Steenberg's end of the valley, Ruth Penfold says wind at flowering, as well as disease and erratic ripening, caused a loss of crop. Generally, 2008 presented more challenges in the vineyard than the cellar, though berry sorting was necessary at both ends.

POSITIVES At Cape Point, quality looks good all round, with lower alcohols. For Constantia producers, cool conditions led to slow ripening which resulted in awesome fruit expression on both whites and reds. Warmer conditions later in the season allowed full ripeness on the reds; good tannin maturity was achieved at lower alcohols.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon blanc for all contributors is concentrated with good natural acids. Semillon (Constantia Uitsig - excellent fruit quality). Shiraz (Groot Constantia - very spicy/peppery). Merlot (Klein Constantia - balanced, elegant; Constantia Uitsig - complex, good character).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Chardonnay (Constantia Uitsig - difficult to reach required sugar levels); Pinotage (Groot Constantia - less concentration/complexity than previous); Cabernet (Cape Point - due to later ripening).

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS Sauvignon 35% up; Chardonnay 50% down (Constantia Uitsig). Overall 20% down, more on reds (Groot Constantia). Reds up, Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Semillon down (Klein Constantia).

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Good but challenging, cool vintage (Cape Point). Exceptional but challenging (Constantia Uitsig). Exceptional whites, good reds (Groot Constantia). Whites and reds promising; a vintage that will be approachable on release and definitely one to put away (Klein Constantia).




WINTER 2007 Rainfall 50% more than the past 10 year average.

SPRING 2007 Higher rainfall, lower temperatures interspersed with warm spells, resulting in vigorous growth and uneven budding in earlier varieties.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Cool with high rainfall but plenty of wind helped prevent rot.

HARVEST 2008 25mm total rain spread over the harvest (Lammershoek), once again ideal for dry-land bush vines. Normal extreme heat at the start of harvest but in much shorter spells than in 2007. Mild February which is unusual but welcome.   Very good season.  Slow ripening


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) For the Swartland Winery team, harvesting at proper ripeness was a big challenge. At Lammershoek, uneven ripeness in early varieties, pinotage particularly, necessitated more sorting. Lammershoek's Albert Ahrens reported that ‘Keeping focused during a very long harvest...' was a cry heard around the winelands.

POSITIVES A long ripening period for mid to later varieties, resulting in superb phenolic ripeness at lower sugar levels. Healthy grapes at Lammershoek allowed for the whole crop to be fermented on wild yeasts.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Both Lammershoek and Swartland Winery single out Chenin blanc and Shiraz. Swartland is also very happy with Cabernet sauvignon. The longer ripening period was influential in all these good results.

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Pinotage was problematic for both Lammershoek and Swartland, the latter mentioning the bigger crop. (But for the same reason, it was a positive for Cloof which had lost 100 tons in the 2007 heat wave!)

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS At Swartland the crop was about 10% higher thanks to high yields on Chenin and Pinotage.

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) The whites generally are good. Reds fresher and slightly lower in alcohol.




WINTER 2007 Ideal with plenty of rain and cold.

SPRING 2007 De Grendel reported very little wind which was beneficial for fruit set for 2008 and crop size for the following 2009 vintage. On the inside of the Tygerberg Hills, Durbanville Hills and Hillcrest experienced strong, cold winds during flowering which reduced the size of the crop to average, unlike the foliage which Durbanville Hills' Martin Moore remembers "kept sprouting for ever".

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Heat spikes as well as regular rain brought constant threat of rot. De Grendel missed this problem, thanks to the drying effect of the strong south-easterly wind.

HARVEST 2008 Due to cooler weather, harvest started on average two weeks later than usual.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Martin Moore's heartfelt declaration is that "the 2008 season is not for sissies!" Harvesting sequence was all over the place, few varieties sticking to their usual order. Both Altydegdacht and De Grendel agree, De Grendel's Charles Hopkins noting: "Alertness in the vineyards and timing had to be spot on." The unsettled weather did cause some rot in Nitida's Semillon, a variety which is notoriously susceptible to this problem.

POSITIVES "An exceptional vintage for red wines, especially for those who had the patience to wait," claims Hopkins. Ripeness achieved at lower sugars, resulting in lower alcohols.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon blanc (De Grendel, Altydgedacht, Durbanville Hills - thanks to the cooler season and our climate). Viognier (Altydgedacht). Riesling (Altydgedacht). Chardonnay (Hillcrest, Diemersdal, Durbanville Hills). Merlot (De Grendel, Diemersdal). Shiraz (De Grendel). Pinotage (Altydgedacht, Diemersdal).


CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS Down between 10 and 15% on Altydgedacht. Down also at Durbanville Hills due to strong, cold winds during flowering and overcast weather during cell differentiation, which resulted in smaller bunches. Generally lower at Hillcrest, with Sauvignon blanc 30% down. De Grendel was up 15% on 2007.

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Hillcrest's Graeme Read is confident that all his wines are medium bodied, elegant and show typical varietal flavours. Charles Hopkins mentions quality whites and "more workable alcohols" in the reds.




WINTER 2007 Enough cold and wet to achieve good dormancy and soil moisture levels.

SPRING 2007 Iona experienced a warm October; rain and cold followed. Elgin Vintners' Paul Wallace recorded rain every 10 days.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Still cool and wet, with rain every two weeks, brought in by the south-easterly wind.

HARVEST 2008 Warm, with occasional showers, some heat spikes and exceptionally high humidity. Iona recorded glorious weather from January, with only three days over 30°C and the odd shower helping to prevent vine stress.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Disease pressure due to the damp, humid conditions. Excessive vigour in the vine canopies due to the moisture, uneven ripening due to poor weather during flowering and veraison. Bird damage. Oak Valley's Pieter Visser's biggest challenge was in the cellar, when all the grapes ripened almost at the same time.

POSITIVES Clean fruit despite mildew pressure always being a threat. The cool ripening period produced fantastic flavour and good acidity in the whites, great colour in the reds. A gratified Pieter Visser also mentions that, possibly because neighbouring vineyards are in production, the baboons left alone Oak Valley's Pinot noir mountain block, which produced five tons/ha for the first time ever.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Viognier (Elgin Vintners - ripe fruit with great flavours). Merlot (Elgin Vintners - benefited from the occasional rain, making irrigation unnecessary). Sauvignon blanc (Southhill - great flavours and good acid). Chardonnay (Iona, Oak Valley, Southhill and Tokara; the latter also enthusiastic about a botrytised Sauvignon dessert-style wine). Pinot Noir (Oak Valley).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon blanc (Elgin Vintners - picked a little green with very high acid as botrytis was setting in). Shiraz (Elgin Vintners - where grey rot was a major problem). Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon (Iona - ‘Wait and see'). Chardonnay (Tokara - due to uneven ripening and much millerandage).

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS Whites average, reds higher, as vines mature (Elgin Vintners). Down on Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet sauvignon (Iona). Good size crop with total up from 100 tons to 165, due to younger blocks coming into production (Oak Valley). Very low (Tokara).

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Outstanding whites (Tokara). As the harvest information was received, reds were still fermenting so too early to comment on them.




WINTER 2007 More than enough rain and cold, with a few snowfalls.

SPRING 2007 Late and still cold, but budding was even

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Graham Beck's viticulturist, Marco Ventrella, records that wind was a notable factor, "punishing those for whom canopy management is not a priority. Where the valley channels the wind rolls in gusts and repeatedly topped exposed vineyards without wind breaks; the prospects for these is not great."

HARVEST 2008 Mild daytime temperatures, cold nights. Disease pressure, increased by intermittent rain, was alleviated by the return of the south-easter.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Regular rain encouraged rot, especially in the whites but also in some reds. Containing growth, managing irrigation and determining when to harvest, as sugars rose slowly. Careful grape sorting in the cellar.

POSITIVES No heat waves during harvest, which allowed the grapes to ripen slowly and at lower sugars, resulting in lower alcohols. Good balance, concentrated varietal flavours and soft tannins. Perfect natural ferments, no sticking. Dustin Osborne of Mont Rochelle noted the challenging phenomenon of reds picking up unusual amounts of acid post-fermentation, possibly due to the cooler season; generally higher natural acid, with the benefit that no tartaric acid addition was necessary.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon Blanc (Chamonix - aromatic and less herbaceous; Mont Rochelle - great balance and flavour intensity). Chardonnay (Chamonix - great balance, flavour intensity; Mont Rochelle - amazing fruit, lower alcohols). Chenin blanc (Rickety Bridge - loads of fruit). Cabernet sauvignon (La Motte - dark, tannic; well balanced, less green; Topiary - good balance; Rickety Bridge -  full, deep, intense). Merlot (Rickety Bridge - deep, intense, not at all warm). Malbec (La Motte - good colour and spicy flavours). Shiraz (La Motte - lots of pepper and spice; Manoir de Bredel; Mont Rochelle - lots of pepper and spice, good acid despite higher alcohol).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Merlot (Chamonix - ripened as the rain came which might dilute it; Mont Rochelle - a bit herbaceous; Manoir de Bredel - from sandy soils). Chenin blanc (Chamonix - "So much rot..." sighs Gottfried Mocke.)

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS Chardonnay higher than 2007 (Cabrière); up by 5% generally at Chamonix but Pinot noir down 20%. Potentially huge but thinned for quality (Mont Rochelle); overall, slightly higher (Topiary).

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) La Motte's Edmund Terblanche is happy that "2008 proved organic farming can be successful; despite the challenges, the grapes stayed intact and healthy. Congratulations to the viticulturists." In his view, reds generally have good colour, elegant tannins but Cabernets have "huge tannins, dark colour - intimidating wines for sure". "A very European vintage; the wines will take longer than usual to show but they will have fantastic flavour," reports Gottfried Mocke, Chamonix. Whites either very good or very bad, depending on harvesting time; reds generally good, if not as good as 2007 (Topiary).




WINTER 2007 Low temperatures, high rainfall; textbook conditions for ideal vine dormancy.

SPRING 2007 Very late and slow to start. Cold with rain and wind early on, which led to lower crop yields. Hail at Newton Johnson destroyed crop on some blocks.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Still cold; November rainfall highest for past 10 years, leading to vigorous growth. Oppressive humidity during period October to January which, with the rain, caused mildew infection.

HARVEST 2008 January temperatures lowest average for 14 years. Things warmed up in February, easing disease pressure.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Weekly rains through the growing season caused excessive vigour and increased disease pressure but grapes responded to timeous mildew control. Sorting rot-infected from healthy grapes in cellar. High malic acid levels.

POSITIVES "Every vintage is a pack of cards! In 2007 we were dealt the perfect hand and 2008 has also presented some outstanding wines," enthuses Peter Finlayson, admitting it was a tough poker game in the process. Slow sugar development with lower alcohols at ripeness. "Load shedding wasn't as bad as anticipated," rejoices La Vierge's Marc van Halderen.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon blanc (Bouchard-Finlayson and Hamilton Russell Vineyards). Chardonnay (La Vierge - intense flavours, well balanced and age-worthy; Tokara - less rot, good flavour development; Newton Johnson - healthy grapes with power and good acid). Pinot noir (HRV - on par; La Vierge - fine tannins and good fruit; Newton Johnson - great aromatics, acid and supple; first crop from home vineyards).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon blanc (La Vierge - some blocks due to rot; Newton Johnson - intermittently expressive, average). Sangiovese (La Vierge - uneven with signs of bird damage). Grenache (Tokara - uneven with poor colour, lots of rot).

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS Chardonnay from Bouchard-Finlayson home vineyards up, also Pinot noir, partly due to new vines coming into production. Sauvignon blanc around 70% down on La Vierge but up on Barbera and Shiraz. Pinot noir and Chardonnay down, Sauvignon average, Syrah up at Newton Johnson.

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Rewarding with lower alcohols a general characteristic (Bouchard Finlayson). Gordon Newton Johnson is "happiest about alcohols (lower) and acidity (good)", otherwise "happy but cautious, with a mix of very good and average wines".




WINTER 2007 Dry but cold.

SPRING 2007 Dry, cooler than usual with a late frost in mid-October.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Between November and February, more than 300mm of rain fell. December and January cooler than usual.

HARVEST 2008 Cooler conditions led to a late start, between 10 days and two weeks.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Selecting only healthy grapes, as the rain had caused high disease pressure. A large number of fruit flies also caused damage to the grapes. After the delayed start, the later varieties ripened early or at the usual time, putting the cellar under pressure.

POSITIVES The cool growing season produced outstanding flavour in whites and early ripening reds, also full ripeness at lower sugars.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Chardonnay, Pinotage, (De Krans, producers group). Touriga nacional (De Krans). Sauvignon blanc, Viognier, Colombar, Merlot (producers group).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Chenin blanc, Shiraz (producers group) Tinta barocca, Souzão, Muscat (De Krans - Muscat varieties due to rot and, in some instances, ripening difficulties).

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS De Krans' crop was overall down 10% on a normal year with Muscat varieties down 50% on 2007.

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Good quality whites and reds but, in a difficult year, grape selection was important, as well as being patient not to harvest too early.




WINTER 2007 Abundant rainfall and cold: Namaqua reports the Olifants overflowed its banks twice and the Clanwilliam dam overflowed until the end of November.

SPRING 2007 Normal, cool with good budburst all round. Occasional thunderstorms supplied additional nitrogen, resulting in excellent shoot growth and sufficient leaves to ripen a bumper crop.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Cool with occasional hot spells in December but grapes ripened under ideal conditions. Good onshore wind dried Fryer's Cove vineyards after morning fog.

HARVEST 2008 Later ripening, around 10 days to two weeks, because of cool weather. Unusually, January was warmer than February with a three-week heat wave which saw premature ripening in many vineyards. ‘A season that will definitely separate the men from the boys,' say the Namaqua team.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) The challenge for Fryer's Cove is to harvest the grapes as cool as possible and protect them against oxidation, before they are vinified in Stellenbosch; also to harvest before the thousands of sparrows take their share. Power failures and a cooling plant which broke down were taxing cellar conditions. Klawer experienced a huge peak of intake due to the prolongued heat wave; this and power cuts caused capacity problems. The trick to alleviating problems associated with receiving over 100 000 tons of grapes, as Namaqua does, is to pick each variety as near as possible to optimum ripeness and to correctly allocate blocks between rebate (brandy), the hugely popular rosé and other wines. High pH levels were a problem later in the harvest for both Klawer and Namaqua. Excellent vineyard management helped avoid rot in Sir Lambert's vines.

POSITIVES Healthy grapes with typical varietal flavours. Rain after the heat wave eased the severe stress. After a maiden harvest of 700kg, Sir Lambert received four tons of grapes this year, a definite positive in view of demand and economics.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon blanc (Fryer's Cove, Klawer - some very good tanks). Chardonnay (Klawer, Namaqua - some very good tanks). Pinot noir, Merlot (Fryer's Cove, Klawer - good colour and flavour); Cabernet sauvignon (Namaqua).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Pinotage (Klawer - good average). Chenin blanc (Namaqua - rot). Merlot (Namaqua - higher pH levels).

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS Klawer is around 8% up, with whites up nearly 12% (Chenin up 20%), reds down nearly 9%.

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Both reds and whites exciting (Fryer's Cove). Whites slightly less good because of rain; reds better in first half of season, high pH levels in second half (Namaqua). Much better than 2007 (Sir Lambert).




WINTER 2007 Cold with low temperatures. Some frost.

SPRING 2007 Low temperatures and periodic abnormal high rainfall in the flowering season.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Two episodes of hail in the Upington region which damaged almost 3 000 to 4 000 tons of grapes. More low temperatures with some abnormal high rainfall.

HARVEST 2008 Abnormal rainfall with humidity providing ideal conditions for fungus development.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Sugars were very low; a lot of disease pressure. In the cellar, strict selection of healthy grapes was necessary.

POSITIVES The quality improvement programme has ensured better quality grapes for good wine. Grape quality was good until the last two weeks of the harvest. Low sugars ensured low pHs and high acid.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Chenin blanc and Colombar have good primary aromas, intense flavour and ideal balance. Shiraz, Merlot and Ruby cabernet are notable, with deep colour, good analysis and lower alcohols.

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Thanks to active attention to the vineyard programme and fruit selection, it's been a satisfying harvest for all wine grape varieties.




WINTER 2007 Typical Cape winter of decades gone by - lots of cold and wet.

SPRING 2007 Relatively wet but enough wind to keep disease at bay. Cool October, temperatures rising late November.      

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Mild with lots of wind. Welcome rain early January, a heat wave at the end of the month. Boschendal recorded December was 2 degrees warmer than December 2006. Nights too warm for sauvignon blanc.

HARVEST 2008 Boschendal's temperatures were similar to previous two years. Rain in February. March temperatures normal with the occasional day over 35°C but nothing like the 2007 heat wave.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Harvesting at the correct time; late season the vineyards took a beating in the heat; relying on taste rather than analysis (Avondale). Vigorous growth which needed much more work in the vineyard; no big problem with disease, except for rot in Chenin after February rain (Boschendal). Long, drawn-out harvest after a late start (Fairview). Getting hold of Pinot noir; with the demand from sparkling wine producers, Pinot costs up to R8 000/ton (Glen Carlou). Uneven ripening and a bottleneck in the cellar with a lot of reds ripening together (Perdeberg). More vegetative growth than usual; with a bigger canopy, there's more transpiration - when to water and how much (Rupert & Rothschild). Juggling late white varieties from Elgin simultaneously with reds from the farm (Vrede en Lust).

POSITIVES Fewer green flavours in sauvignon, very cool end Feb/early March good for slow ripening of reds, which reached full maturity at lower sugars (Boschendal, Seidelberg). Electricity - thanks to the generator; steadily climbing sugars; heat waves not as long or hot as previous years (Glen Carlou). Longer hang time resulted in clean fruit flavours, soft tannins without high alcohols (Rupert & Rothschild).

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Chenin blanc (Avondale, Nabygelegen, Perdeberg - healthy grapes, lots of fruit; Seidelberg - intense yet elegant). Petit verdot (Glen Carlou - soft tannins, bursting with fruit; Nabygelegen). Chardonnay (Boschendal - good structure and length; Fairview - rich, good varietal character; Glen Carlou - lower alcohols, great analyses; Seidelberg - intense yet elegant; Vrede en Lust). Shiraz (Avondale; Boschendal - elegant with delicate pepper; Fairview - good colour, bright fruit, ripe tannins; Glen Carlou - white pepper, violets in Rhône style; Perdeberg - well balanced, good character; Vrede en Lust). Viognier (Fairview - good varietal character; Vrede en Lust). Pinotage (Fairview - good colour, bright fruit, ripe tannins). Cabernet sauvignon (Avondale; Seidelberg - great concentration, structure, age-worthy)

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon blanc (Fairview - too warm; Seidelberg). Cabernet franc (Glen Carlou - better than previous but still a little thin, average colour). Semillon (Perdeberg - overripe). Cinsaut (Perdeberg - sunburn and sugar too high). Shiraz (Seidelberg - some rot resulted in harvesting before optimal ripeness).

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS About 10% down (Landskroon, Nabygelegen). Average (Boschendal). Reduced crop on Zinfandel due to rot (Glen Carlou). About 12% more than average and a record crop (Perdeberg). Lower on average, except for Malbec (Seidelberg).

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Very good whites, promising reds (Avondale). Good, reds just better than whites (Glen Carlou). Good both whites and reds (Landskroon). Above average to very good (Perdeberg). Good but not great (Seidelberg). Superb whites and rosé, jury out on reds (Vrede en Lust).




WINTER 2007 Wet and cold from July onwards; Brandvlei dam, which supplies irrigation, completely full. Average maximum temperatures similar to long-term but average minimum down by 1-2 degrees.

SPRING 2007 Cooler than average with intermittent rain, especially November, and wind during flowering; bud break 14 days late, later varieties uneven.

EARLY SUMMER 2008 Cooler, more rain than usual, long periods when no irrigation necessary - a first. "Vigorous growth, big canopies and high disease pressure; we spent a lot of time taming the beast," jokes Graham Beck's Irene Waller.

HARVEST 2008 Mostly good weather with some untimely rain. Generally cooler with usual heat waves less damaging but more of them.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Controlling disease pressure; knowing precisely when to pick, especially Sauvignon blanc because of end-January rain. "No recipes in 2008, we had to constantly re-evaluate decision-making paradigms," remembers Irene Waller. "Snails that hatched later than usual," was yet another challenge met by the Van Loveren team. Philip Jonker's harvest at Weltevrede reflects the difficulties experienced by many: "Bottleneck of grapes ready halfway through the season. We worked very long hours. Most mornings I got up at 03h30, some at 01h30, we started harvesting at midnight on two occasions continuing until the following night and we even started harvesting at 02h00 one Saturday morning. There was one 38-hour stretch without sleep including a physical workout of barrel stacking."

POSITIVES Cooler conditions led to excellent quality, Sauvignon especially. Even, slower ripening allowed for better phenolic ripeness. Cool evenings recovered and retained acids and flavours.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Colombard (Goedverwacht - loads of guava and herbaceous flavours). Merlot (Goedverwacht - excellent colour, fruit and structure). Chardonnay (Graham Beck - elegant, complex flavour development at lower sugars; Robertson Winery; Weltevrede - beautiful, intense yellow fruit favours in the grapes harvested at full ripeness). Shiraz (Graham Beck - longer hang time developed great concentration while retaining freshness; Weltevrede). Chenin blanc (Van Loveren). Sauvignon blanc (Van Loveren). Gewürztraminer (Weltevrede).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Chenin blanc (Graham Beck - a lot of sour rot; Robertson Winery - rot). Cinsaut (Graham Beck - large berries without concentration or full phenolic ripeness). Sauvignon blanc (Robertson Winery - some blocks due to rot). Red muscadel (Van Loveren - rain drastically reduced yield; Goedverwacht); Riesling (Weltevrede - rot).

CROP SIZE - OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANT LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS Average (Arabella). Up overall with Chardonnay significantly higher, Cabernet sauvignon lower (Graham Beck). Same as 2007, except Chenin and Sauvignon down due to rot (Robertson Winery). Overall 5% increase with Chardonnay, Ruby cabernet above average (Van Loveren). Same as 2007 (Weltevrede). / continues