2014 Southern Hemisphere Harvest Report: South Africa

Ready to taste the first wines of 2014? While vines are just flowering in Europe and North America, the Southern Hemisphere has picked, crushed and fermented this year's crop. Vintners in South Africa report a wet and wild year. A rainy spring produced a lot of grapes, but a nice dry spell in February allowed whites to ripen. But then the rains came back, and growers sprinted to get reds into the wineries.

Here's a sneak peek at the upcoming vintage. And check out our reports on Australia, New Zealand and Argentina and Chile.

South Africa

The good news: Yields are up and, despite wet conditions early in the season, a dry, warm spell in February allowed early-ripening whites to be picked under good conditions.

The bad news: The growing season was marked by rainy conditions early, which led to higher-than-usual disease pressures. The growing season also ran late, and many varieties ripened at or near the same time, putting stress on wineries where space is a premium.

Promising grapes: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc

Analysis: "2014 was definitely one of the most complex and challenging vintages we've had since moving to the Swartland," said Chris Mullineux, co-owner and co-winemaker along with his wife, Andrea, at Mullineux Wines. "The rains continued into early spring and summer and yields were up, as was disease pressure. The harvest started about 14 days late."

"Our total fermentation space is 140 tons and we crushed 760 tons in just three weeks," said Abrie Beeslaar, winemaker at Kanonkop in Stellenbosch, one of the Cape's top Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon producers. "There was little wind early in the season and that [combined] with the rain contributed to the high yields. The wines have great character but I think they will be accessible early because of the bigger yields, about 15 percent bigger [than typical]."

"Thankfully a warm and dry February provided perfect conditions for early-picked whites," said Adam Mason, winemaker at Mulderbosch Vineyards in Stellenbosch. "But with heavy rains late in March, 2014 was definitely not the season to hold back and wait for extra hang time." Botrytis quickly became a threat.

"We concentrated all the reds by saignée up to 30 percent," said Carl van der Merwe, winemaker at De Morgenzon. "Tannin and color is consistent with a cooler year and alcohol levels are about a percent lower than normal, but with good physiological ripeness, more elegant tannins and balance."

Workers toil to bring in ripe grapes at Rust en Vrede.

Source: http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/50032