2009 Harvest Report (continues)




WINTER 2008 Cold but fairly dry until good rains arrived in July and August. Intense late-winter frosts. Sustained snow on Langeberg. Vines had good dormancy.

SPRING 2008 Very cold from August to mid-October. Snow, frost in places, hail and rain almost every week, bringing high infection rate of oidium; long budding period but even, ensuring a late season in store.

NOVEMBER 2008 - JANUARY 2009 A three-day deluge dropped 207mm on De Wetshof and 357mm above Robertson. Huge damage to affected vineyards, roads and irrigation lines. High infection period necessitated expensive spraying programme. Real problem saturated soils, vigorous canopy growth and berry size. Further rains in December pushed back harvest by two weeks. Usual irrigation not needed in some areas for six weeks. Very cool, temperature never exceeding 32ºC until mid-February. Cold nights resulted in sporadic oidium but no botrytis.

HARVEST 2009 No rain - the first time in many years. Cool until mid-February; everything harvested before that came in with good acids, low pH levels, nice fruit. Very hot weather for first two weeks in March but cold nights. Around two to three weeks late. Weather excellent for whites due to later than usual heatwave.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Uneven ripening of Shiraz. Slow alcoholic/malo-lactic fermentations (Bon Cap). Reds difficult to ferment dry due to high fructose sugar levels (Bon Courage). Water management, controlling berry size, high infection period of oidium and plasmopara (downy mildew) after November downpour, managed with help of weather station information. Early pickings had too much acid, pH levels too low (De Wetshof). Maintaining sufficient soil moisture during February/March heat. Amount of juggling in cellar to accommodate ‘concertina' effect of grapes ripening together. Late start of Cap Classique harvest necessitated more labour due to shorter window period of optimum ripeness (Graham Beck). Canopy management on reds to prevent green flavours (Van Loveren). Red fermentation space problems (Zandvliet).

POSITIVES Very good acid/pH balance on early white varieties (Bon Cap). Healthy berries with good sugar levels (Bon Courage). Lots of fruit, good acid ensure ageworthy wines (De Wetshof). Great communication and attitude between vineyard and cellar teams (Graham Beck). Excellent cool conditions for Sauvignon Blanc; no rot on Chenin Blanc or Colombard (Van Loveren). Cool year (Viljoensdrift). Perfect flowering conditions for early varieties - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Good teamwork. The luxury of time. One of the easiest vintages. (Weltevrede). Cool early summer has given whites, Chardonnay especially, excellent aromas and flavours (Zandvliet).

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon Blanc (Bon Cap, De Wetshof, Graham Beck, Weltevrede). Chardonnay (Bon Cap; De Wetshof; Graham Beck - also for Cap Classique, good natural acidity; Weltevrede; Zandvliet). Semillon (Van Loveren). Chenin Blanc (Viljoensdrift). Gewürztraminer (Weltevrede). Viognier (Graham Beck). Pinot Noir (De Wetshof). Pinotage (Bon Cap, Viljoensdrift). Merlot (Graham Beck - the surprise: ripe tannin, great elegance). Shiraz (Zandvliet). Cabernet Sauvignon (Bon Cap; Graham Beck - great ripeness at lower sugars; Van Loveren; Zandvliet).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Viognier (Bon Cap). Sauvignon Blanc (Viljoensdrift - thin). Shiraz (Bon Cap). Cabernet Sauvignon (Viljoensdrift - lacks colour).

CROP SIZE (OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS) Overall slightly down on 2008; most whites, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon up (Bon Cap). Crop approximately 6.5% down on 2008, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon worst affected (Bon Courage). Chardonnay 30% up (Graham Beck). Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruby Cabernet down, overall crop 1% down on 2008 (Robertson Winery). Overall 9% down; Muscat varieties up 15% (Van Loveren). Overall down, Sauvignon Blanc by between 30-40%; Gewürztraminer up (Weltevrede).

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Whites very good; most reds average but Cabernet Sauvignon very good (Bon Cap). Very good (De Wetshof). More than good with nice acids in whites, fully ripe reds (Graham Beck). Better than 2008 (Van Loveren, Viljoensdrift). Stunning! (Weltevrede).




WINTER 2008 Winter started late with the first significant rain in May. Then it was a dream season with above-average rainfall and lower-than-average temperatures, encouraging sound vine dormancy.

SPRING 2008 Early spring was incredibly wet, also cold (Jordan recorded a low of 4.2ºC on 19 September); budding, though up to three weeks late, was even. Even though it was wet, the cold, windy conditions kept disease at bay. Normal, warmer temperatures and drier weather arrived towards October. Flowering was good, except a cold spell affected the size of the Cabernet Sauvignon crop; some producers had pollination problems due to the wind. Otherwise it was a healthy growing season. Wet soils allowed good early vine growth, benefiting new plantings.

NOVEMBER 2008 - JANUARY 2009 November warm, with wind in some parts damaging the crop. December was warmer than usual, with good rains at end of the month; weed control was important. From then on it was dry. January was cool, with relatively less wind, providing perfect growing conditions, provided soil moisture levels were carefully managed. The grapes ripened slowly but steadily with good fruit definition, low pH levels and fresh acid. Temperatures were ideal for whites, almost too cool for reds. Veraison in reds was late, happening early January rather than more usual mid-December.

HARVEST 2009 The traditional Cape heatwave arrived later than usual towards the end of February, when there were two or three periods of temperatures between 37-41ºC; evenings too were warm. In areas with better exposure to the sea, temperatures didn't reach such extreme levels. The upside is that most of the white grapes had been harvested before the heat and there was no rot, even in Zinfandel, a variety notorious for rotting. Some soils resistant to much of heatwave, just needed supplementary irrigation, others required continual monitoring for irrigation. Damp soils slowed down sugar ripeness, which may lead to more favourable alcohol levels. By the end of harvest, some dryland, virus-infected vineyards bearing late varieties took strain, losing their leaves and battled to make sugar. In some varieties, the longer than normal heatwave caused shrinkage and influenced acid levels. Of significance to those in the Banghoek, Helderberg, Jonkershoek and Schaapenberg areas was the fire that raged from 4 February for nearly a month. Many hectares of fynbos were burnt, and many vineyards damaged.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Timing and volumes of irrigation, which were very different from previous years. Slow start to spontaneous alcoholic/malo-lactic fermentations; fast tannin extraction (Blaauwklippen). Crop reduction to minimise unevenness. Patience to allow virus-infected Cabernets to fully ripen. Space problems when reds ripened simultaneously; the need to keep reds long enough on skins (Delheim). Harvest lasted from 3 February to 17 April, the longest in Carl Schultz' 16 years at Hartenberg, also one of the biggest. Water stress between December and April (Hartenberg). Initial slow ripening (Hidden Valley). Getting the Sauvignon Blanc in before the heatwave, difficult because of late season (Kaapzicht). Timeous irrigation from mid-January. Intensive spraying in wet pre-Christmas months. Mixed anthocyanin extract counts requiring widely differing skin contact time for colour parity. Monitoring Chenin Blanc for smoke taint (Kanu). Controlling the crop (Laibach). Men with grinders, hammers and welding torches in new cellar up until mid-harvest (Meerlust). Harvesting when sugars were shooting up, a situation exacerbated by two weeks later start and month earlier finish to harvest (Morgenhof). Green seeds in most reds ruled out post-fermentation maceration; long pre-soak with slower natural ferment extracted colour with too much green tannin giving full, soft wines, ready sooner (Mulderbosch). Selective picking where vines showed signs of stress; harvesting during those very hot temperatures (Quoin Rock). Rapid sugar ripeness without phenolic ripeness required judicious irrigation to maintain healthy canopy (Rustenberg).

POSITIVES Little disease. Good white wines (Delheim). Physiological ripeness achieved at low sugars (12.5%-13.5% alc), especially Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Good volumes of high quality (Hartenberg). High acids, low pHs as well as concentrated flavours meant that one could easily just sit back and wait for full ripeness on many varieties (Jordan). An abundance of labour to do the picking when many grapes ripened together (Kaapzicht). Clean, healthy fruit with high natural acids, thus no additions necessary (some whites needed deacidifying). Cooler early season allowed Sauvignon Blanc to be picked riper with better mid-palate weight, fewer pyrazines. Physiologically ripe red grapes, allowing extended skin maceration (Kanu). Harvesting almost all fruit at good Ballings with no extremes. Not a year for lots of new wood (luckily because it is super expensive!) (Laibach). Minimised S02 thanks to wonderful fruit purity (Meerlust). Natural ferments a breeze on all reds (Quoin Rock). Phenolic ripeness with long hang time. No smoke damage from fires (Rustenberg). No issues with fermentation, indicating great nutrient levels, normal glucose/fructose ratios (Waterford).

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon Blanc (Delheim, Graham Beck, Hidden Valley, Jordan, Kanu, Laibach, Mulderbosch, Saxenburg, Spier, Waterford). Chenin Blanc (Delheim, Kaapzicht, Kanu, Laibach, Mulderbosch, Reyneke, Spier, Villiera). Chardonnay (Hartenberg, Jordan, L'Avenir, Morgenhof, Mulderbosch, Rustenberg, Waterford). Riesling (Hartenberg). Roussanne (Rustenberg). Merlot (Delheim, Graham Beck, Hartenberg, Jordan, Kanonkop, Kanu, Laibach, Meerlust, Morgenhof, Villiera). Cabernet Sauvignon (Delheim, Graham Beck, Hidden Valley L'Avenir, Mulderbosch Rustenberg, Spier, Waterford). Cabernet Franc (Blaauwklippen, Waterford). Shiraz (Graham Beck, Hartenberg, Jordan, Kanu, Mulderbosch, Reyneke, Saxenburg, Waterford). Pinotage (Kaapzicht, Laibach, L'Avenir, Spier). Petit Verdot (Morgenhof, Mulderbosch). Malbec (Morgenhof).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon Blanc (Kaapzicht - from dryland vineyards; Kanu - a dryland vineyard; Morgenhof; Mulderbosch - unirrigated blocks). Chenin Blanc (L'Avenir; Spier - early harvested blocks). Chardonnay (Saxenburg). Semillon (Rustenberg). Merlot (Spier - some blocks). Pinotage (Villiera). Shiraz (Delheim - stressed after heatwave). Cabernet Sauvignon (Delheim - stressed after heatwave; Kaapzicht - from virused vineyards; Kanu - dryland vineyard; Laibach - hit by heat; Morgenhof, Saxenburg). Mourvèdre (Reyneke - picked too early; Rustenberg).

CROP SIZE (OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS) Zinfandel due to lack of rot (Blaauwklippen). Pinotage abnormally small (Delheim). A bigger than usual crop, maybe compensating for 40% drop in 2007 (Hartenberg). Normal (Hidden Valley). Sauvignon Blanc 34% up mainly due to young vineyards maturing; Chardonnay 49% up on 2008; Chenin Blanc 95% up; Merlot down 9.8% - lower bunch weights; Cabernet Franc down 10.4%; overall increase of 19.3% (Jordan). Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage 25% down; overall 8 to 10% down partly due to dry, hot summer (Kaapzicht). Merlot up 30%; Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc up 10%; Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon down 10% (Kanu). Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon both down - virus-infected and older vines respectively (L'Avenir). Cabernet Sauvignon - due to wind at berry set. Chardonnay 10% up (Meerlust). Chardonnay 20%, Chenin Blanc 10%, Merlot 8% up; Pinotage 20% down; overall 8% up on 2008 (Morgenhof). Most blocks slightly up due to healthy fruit (Mulderbosch). Overall down with Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon significantly lower - smaller bunches; fewer, smaller berries (Rustenberg). Overall normal; Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon down between 10-15% (Saxenburg). Overall down 15%; Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon down 20% (Spier). Overall average; Chenin Blanc significantly up due to little botrytis (Villiera). White and red in exposed blocks down, especially Chardonnay (Waterford).

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Reds, which account for 98% of production, have perfect physical and phenolic ripeness, promising a long life pan; alcohols are between 13.5% and 14%, good for such a dry season. Make space for a great 2009 vintage! (Blaauwklippen). Whites good; reds average to good (Delheim). Both whites and reds superb; whites as good as 1997, reds on a par with 1995, 2000. Having both perform so well in the same vintage is probably what sets 2009 apart (Hartenberg). Best vintage for years (Hidden Valley). In general, exceptional (Jordan). Reds above average; excellent whites under irrigation from on higher slopes (Kaapzicht).Good but not outstanding (Kanonkop). Whites with good fruit and weight; reds with lower alcohols and phenolic ripeness (Kanu). One of top three vintages in last 10; organic vineyards were outstanding (Laibach). Very promising with good natural acids, flavour intensity, excellent colour in reds (L'Avenir). No definitive prediction but raw material looks fantastic (Meerlust). Very good, nothing to complain about (Mulderbosch). Great (Reyneke). Very good; excellent analyses, good colour and wonderful phenolic ripeness with lower alcohols (Rustenberg). Much better than 2008 but perhaps not up to earlier expectations (Saxenburg). Good (Spier). Good (Villiera). Above average to excellent, great balance, concentration and density (Waterford).




WINTER 2008 Winter started a month late, mid-July continuing into spring. Heavy snowfalls and cold ensured good vine dormancy, leading to even budding. Annual average rainfall is 400mm; in 2008, just over 1 200mm fell, ensuring a saturated water table and dams overflowing well into November.

SPRING 2008 Bud burst delayed around two weeks due to lengthy cold, wet weather. Later varieties budded before usually early budders; snow still lying when late variety, Shiraz, was at 60% bud burst.

NOVEMBER 2008 - JANUARY 2009 Relatively cool with occasional downpours, but south-easterly winds quickly dried out the canopy.

HARVEST 2009 Cool conditions, which delayed the start of harvest to 30 January, the latest ever. A short hot spell early February was followed by cooler weather until the real heat at the end of the month and into March. By then 85% of the harvest was in, leaving some Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvèdre outstanding.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Wet conditions led to vigorous, dense canopies requiring both sufficient water at ripening and management to get sufficient sunlight onto the bunches. Working gently with the smaller berries to avoid over-extraction.

POSITIVES Well-drained soils and wind helped the vines to remain disease free.

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.


CROP SIZE (OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS) 20% down on most varieties due to the berries being 20-30% smaller. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon both 20% up.

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) One of the best three vintages in 14 years. All wines have great character, balance, depth, finesse and ageing potential.




WINTER 2008 Late start, negatively affecting cover-crop growth. From June, wet with ample cold units to send vines into good dormancy. Storage dams filled, water table levels high enough to help vines through long, dry summer.

SPRING 2008 Very cold; budding and flowering, especially in early varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, was up to three weeks late but set for a good, even crop. Some later varieties showed some uneven budding due to the cold conditions. Intermittent rain required pro-active mildew control.

NOVEMBER 2008 - JANUARY 2009 Cool conditions lasted into January, one of the coolest in a decade. Good November rainfall ensured proper soil moisture conditions but created ideal conditions for downy mildew. Otherwise, growing conditions were favourable for gradual ripening.

HARVEST 2009 Cooler than average temperatures for December to March at 24.9ºC. Prolonged warm spell from mid-February to end March brought harvest forward by a week. January and February relatively warm and dry, produced ideal ripening conditions and healthy grapes. After mid-March, day and night-time temperatures dropped, allowing reds to have extended ripening without sugars rushing up. Shiraz suffered lower acids after the heatwave.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Losing Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in a contract grower's vineyard to fire; dubbed 2009 'Vintage of the Ravaging Fires' (Ataraxia). Learning potential of vineyards, the oldest only producing third crop (Benguela Cove). Mildew control after 260mm of rain in three days in November (Bouchard Finlayson). Erosion and very wet vineyards made it difficult to get in to spray, resulting in isolated outbreaks of downy mildew. Taking Southern Right cellar from breaking ground to 'harvest ready' in five months (Hamilton Russell). Pinot Noir, Chardonnay for bubbly then table wine and Sauvignon Blanc all marched into the cellar in a crazy 10 days - just before the heatwave (La Vierge). Unusual ripening patterns made harvesting times critical during heatwave, especially Pinot Noir (Newton Johnson).

POSITIVES Fabulous quality fruit (Ataraxia). The Ca-rich weathered shale clay releases soil moisture slowly; in combination with windy conditions this ensures naturally balanced vineyard growth. Grape buyers reserving specific blocks on visual appearance alone (Benguela Cove). Healthy grapes, optimum ripening. Mildew kept under control, even the baboons kept their distance! (Creation). Unblemished fruit which assisted the desire to manage working with lower sulphur levels (Bouchard Finlayson). Excellent acidity, low pH levels; rot-free, evenly ripe grapes --no need for the sorting table and few bunches rejected in vineyard sort! (Hamilton Russell). MCC base wines balanced with good acid, great potential (La Vierge). 95% of season cool, disease free with ample rain for irrigation (Newton Johnson).

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon Blanc (Ataraxia; Benguela Cove - consistent minerality; Creation - great intensity; La Vierge). Semillon (Ataraxia). Chardonnay (Ataraxia; Bouchard Finlayson - where the money is this year!; Creation; La Vierge; Newton Johnson). Viognier (Creation). Pinot Noir (Bouchard Finlayson; La Vierge; Newton Johnson). Pinotage (Hamilton Russell). Merlot (Ataraxia). Shiraz (Ataraxia, Creation, La Vierge). Mourvèdre (Ataraxia).

LESS WELL-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Barbera (La Vierge - sugar ripe but high acid, bit green). Shiraz (Newton Johnson - hoped for better natural acid).

CROP SIZE (OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS) Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Gris significantly higher than 2008. Mourvèdre, Grenache, some Shiraz slightly down (Ataraxia). Overall crop up due to young vineyards coming on stream but slightly lower in blocks already yielding due to crop thinning (Benguela Cove). All slightly down on 2008 (Bouchard Finlayson). Late August hailstorm reduced Chardonnay crop (Creation). Down - Pinot Noir 30%, Sauvignon Blanc 15%, Chardonnay 10%; up - Pinotage 18% (Hamilton Russell). Slight to moderately lower crops on most varieties (La Vierge). Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc both down, Pinot Noir down in a few blocks (Newton Johnson).

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) One of the best vintages in at least 10 to 15 years; small berries and bunches significant, in reds especially (Ataraxia). Both whites and reds performed very well (Bouchard Finlayson). A good year; we couldn't have wished for better weather during harvest (Creation). Whites have density and attractive glycerol mouthfeel without losing tension and zing. Reds are firm without clumsiness or excessive bigness; 2009s have tightness and athletic structure of 2006s with fineness and elegance of 2005s (Hamilton Russell). Whites slightly fuller than 2008; reds well ripened and intense (La Vierge). Whites best vintage of last three years; reds - could be a one-in-10 vintage for Pinot Noir (Newton Johnson).




WINTER 2008 Warm and dry early winter, then good rain and snowfalls. Budding problems anticipated because of late winter.

SPRING 2008 Exceptionally cold until late in season, though few spring frosts. Early ripening Pinotage showed little growth for a month during the cold conditions, then many varieties started to develop at the same time, suggesting a short, sharp harvest. Some uneven budding on Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

NOVEMBER 2008 - JANUARY 2009 Heavy November rains caused localised flooding, washing away some river- bank vineyards. Large berries and thick foliage also resulted from the rains. Mild temperatures and cold nights favoured good colour formation.

HARVEST 2009 Cool until February, when the heat saw varieties start to ripen all together. The increased likelihood of white rust and downy mildew due to mid-February rains, was limited. For most of March the maximum daytime temperature was higher than the long-term average; this put vines already struggling to ripen their fruit at a further disadvantage.


CHALLENGES (IN VINEYARD AND CELLAR) Varieties ripening at the same time putting pressure on cellar capacity. Mildew pressure after mid-February rains caused some problems with ripening. Uneven budding led to uneven ripening and difficulties in getting juice samples with accurate analyses.

POSITIVES Good flavour, acids and colour

BEST-PERFORMING WHITE AND RED VARIETIES Sauvignon Blanc (various cellars - multi-dimensional flavours; Eagle's Cliff). Chardonnay (various cellars). Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz (Eagle's Cliff) and Pinotage (various cellars).


CROP SIZE (OVERALL AND VARIETIES WITH SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER OR HIGHER YIELDS) Whites generally up; reds down, Ruby Cabernet worst affected (various cellars); Sauvignon Blanc down ±30%; Chenin Blanc and most reds down (Eagle's Cliff).

OVERALL QUALITY (WHITES AND REDS) Very good overall (Eagle's Cliff). Wines destined for brandy are very good, healthy and with high acid.