Good 2003 Sauvignon Blanc from Constantia and Durbanville

'We've had 50mm - the highest monthly rainfall average since 1988! That has good implications, together with the coolest June to August in five years, for the coming growing season. In Constantia it's been a great year for all,' said Constantia Uitsig's viticulturist/cellar consultant André Rossouw on a chilly, misty Constantia Monday last week. 'These few days of rain will drop my sugars a bit, but they'll climb again. I've only got 20 tons of Cab on the vine anyway.' Rossouw reported good sugars in Uitsig's 2003 reds, and their Chardonnay crop is up 99%. A sample of Sauvignon Blanc - showing figgy, fruit salad rather than grassy flavours after fermentation - was first in, and yields are slightly down. Tasting promising was their lean Semillon, fermented dry and in barrel.

At the Tokai end, harvest was also halted by rain for Steenberg's Christa Von la Chevallerie, but they expect to be done in two weeks. Introducing a harvest machine this season means picking started at 4am, keeping things cooler and faster. 'Semillon is very nice; it's just fermented in barrel. Our Sauvignon is better quality than 2002, and we took in Merlot and Shiraz last week. The reds are looking good, although they've only started malo.'

At Groot Constantia on Wednesday, Boela Gerber was also waiting for Cabernet to recover. They began harvesting 10 days later than in 2002. In particular, Gerber reported Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinotage as looking 'very good'. 
'With Sauvignon, these are the best grapes I've seen during my time in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Constantia! It's nice that we've got phenolic ripeness at lower sugar levels,' he recapped. They've also harvested their maiden 'inky black' Malbec.

By Thursday's sunnier weather, Klein Constantia's Ross Gower was harvesting their remaining Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, reporting 'fantastic flavours and colour' and predicting that only a few stressed Cabernet blocks that would have absorbed water. 'Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are looking very good - much better than the previous two vintages. We've also picked maiden Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon,' he said. Unfortunately Gower's private Elgin vineyard got singed by a Bot River fire, so he's lost 1 000 Sauvignon Blanc vines.

In Durbanville, 2003 should also produce brilliant Sauvignon Blancs. Durbanville Hills' Riaan Oosthuizen said Sauvignon crops may be down, but quality is up. 'We got it in from the middle of Feb and it's all fermented dry already. The Rhinofields reserve range will definitely happen. We didn't get the Biesjes Craal block this year, but if another tank is good, we might make that into a special label,' he said. 2003 Merlot is not as promising, but Shiraz could be a cracker. Young Cabernet Sauvignon is in, but they're still waiting for older blocks.

Nitida's harvest is only two-thirds complete, a fact Bernhard Veller attributes to their location about 150m higher up. Cabernet Sauvignon should hang until mid April. Recent rain has also postponed their Shiraz and Merlot picking until next week, but Veller is pleased they were spared 2002's hot February spell. He predicts better 2003 Semillon and riper, more tropical Sauvignon Blanc.

At the far end, Diemersdal had their Cabernet Franc and 80% of Cabernet Sauvignon to harvest. Tienie Louw predicts 2003 Sauvignon Blanc will knock the socks off the previous two vintages, thanks to machine night harvesting and generally cooler temperatures. His money is also on Shiraz for 2003. 

'What's nice this season, after last year's uneven ripening, is the small berries, concentration and even ripeness through pips and flesh,' said Louw.

This article was sponsored by Distell WineNews Service