Harvest 2001: Constantia many last grapes in

Groot Constantia may be one of the Cape's oldest wine properties, but recent import Boela Gerber was cursing modern technologies this week. 'Man, I thought I was a winemaker but I'm finding I need to be an engineer to work out which buttons to push on these big presses, an electrician to repair a faulty tank.' Gerber lamented, clearly fatigued from lack of sleep. He found conditions different from his previous position at Rickety Bridge in Franschhoek. 'There the vineyards were my responsibility as well. Here the cellar is bigger, but then pumps and tanks are more efficient. There are also more experimentation options. I made one Sauvignon before, but now we've got 12 tanks of it,' he said enthusiastically, offering three samples of freshly fermented 2001. Sauvignon aside, Gerber also noted that Merlot and a young block of Shiraz picked two weeks ago were looking mighty good. 'I think there's an elegance and finesse in the wines that you don't get in Stellenbosch or Franschhoek. But they're not show wines,' he noted.

At Klein Constantia, Ross Gower reported that the last Riesling and reds came in mid week. Grapes for cult Vin de Constance wine are still out there, although Gower noted that while they are usually shrivelled, less rain has turned them into raisins. Not having irrigated vineyards has certainly had an effect. 'The early part of 2001 was great, but I'd say the latter part was average. No irrigation resulted in water stress with some vines sticking between one degree balling and another for days. Unlike the rest of the industry, we're not down on our Chardonnay. We were worried about our sugars sticking in our Cab, but it was much better than expected,' he concluded.

Next door at Buitenverwachting, Hermann Kirschbaum anticipated that 2001 wouldn't be a vintage to complain about. 'We had very nice crop levels. We had poor budding for Riesling last year, but not this year. Thanks to the dryness we've had no rot, so the quality of the fruit is brilliant. I haven't seen such healthy stuff in a long time.' Kirschbaum admitted to a few hectic weeks during the Sauvignon harvest. 'I expected a lot of the Sauvignon initially, but it's a little shy now. It's still in the fermentation tank though and will change. It looks like we've got a nice Chardonnay crop,' he said.

On the Tokai side of Constantia, Nicky Versfeld was already knee deep in paperwork. 'We finished last Friday with the last Cab. We were about one-and-a-half weeks later than 2000 due to a cooler summer. Our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir crops (at 160m) are down. But it wasn't from lack of winter rain - our vineyards are irrigated - but the fires last year which got those vines.' Fermented tank samples of Steenberg's Sauvignon and Semillon reveal promising flavours ahead, and Versfeld predicts better quality than 2000. He makes wines for Constantia Uitsig too. 'Our reds are still going through malo so it's hard to say what will happen, but I think this year will be good for both reds and whites,' he predicted.