New year, new harvest, new books

Submitted by Angela Lloyd on 10 January, 2012 - 16:13

So, here we go again another year is already well into its stride and the 2012 harvest is around the corner.

So far, so good, if a little later than last year, according to some winemakers who have kindly given me their very early impressions.

Last week, Andrea Mullineux noted `Veraison is juuuuuuuust starting in the Swartland. Going to be a later start than last year, I reckon.`

Progress in the Simonsberg part of Stellenbosch seemed to be about the same according to Haidee Marklew, who commented, `The vines are looking good and healthy but no veraison here yet. I agree, we might start a little later this year.` Walking through a young block of pinotage later in the day revealed that `the bunches are starting to colour nice and slowly.`

In the city bowl, things were a bit more advanced, with Jean-Vincent Ridon remarking that his Clos d`Oranje block of ungrafted syrah had started veraison, `so time to put up the bird nets!`

Spring and the run up to the harvest does appear to have been cooler than last year (who can forget that 2010 post-Christmas heatwave which lasted nearly a week), so even in traditionally warmer areas, such as Slanghoek, Christine Stevens of Mountain Oaks can say things are, ` looking good, praying it does not hot up like last year!`

A sentiment echoed by Cathy Marshall in Elgin, who is so far positive `It`s been remarkably cool in the valley, perfect for top notch Pinot babies. Let`s hope it stays this way. Canopy growth is huge, so need to tip more regularly than usual, but mildew incidence low, which means less spraying - yay!`

Down the hill and up the slopes of the Helderberg (pictured), Waterford winemaker, Francois Haasbroek is cautious about the less spraying bit. `Intermittent humid conditions and lower than usual south easterly wind in December has pushed up the risk of Powdery Mildew in a few varieties we need to be vigilant in treating that as soon as possible.`

Going back to early spring 2011, Haasbroek comments on the unseasonally warm 10-14 day spell during late winter, which caused early bud break and concern when further cold spells occurred. `A couple of vineyards are showing variance in bunch formation, so we`ll need to be selective in picking or drop any underdeveloped bunches post veraison.` The mild conditions slowed growth, which at present sees development five to ten days later than usual. But Haasbroek anticipates the usual January/February heatwaves, `which will put strain on diseased vineyards. Under par winter rainfall put strain on soil water very early irrigation is becoming a non-negotiable asset.`

A few drops of the natural stuff are anticipated over Thursday night/Friday morning, hopefully followed by a mildew-chasing south easter.

Overall, the Waterford team is `happy with what we see, though it`s a relatively light crop.` Harvesting of the first white grapes is anticipated in around three weeks.

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