Harvest 2001: Paarl and Wellington

And they're off! Harvest 2001 has officially started so a wine quality forecast is timely. In the slightly warmer (neighbouring) areas of Paarl and Wellington, most whites are already in.

How are things looking? 'Hot, very hot!' chuckles winemaker Sydney Burke, working his first vintage at Paarl's Ashanti, which is poles apart climatically (hence employing different winemaking techniques) from Constantia, where he was based before. A redesigned cellar means increased production capacity (grapes were sold off before) with better work flow and creative room for premium lines. 'The harvest is looking good - but short and compact, with lots of late nights! Flavours in the Chenin look good, fermentation aromas from our Pinotage are healthy, and we'll probably start on Malbec at the end of the week,' he says confidently.

Villiera's Jeff Grier is happy about a 'cool January' despite a dry winter, although he's cautious about predictions. Their grapes for sparkling wine are in, as is some Pinotage and Sauvignon Blanc (the latter looking better than last year). 'If it remains cool there'll be no panic, although if we have a February heat-wave, as sometimes happens, we could have problems,' he says.

David Finlayson agrees that 2001 is cooler than 2000, as Glen Carlou started harvesting a full week later. 'We had a solid 20 mm of rain last weekend which wasn't ideal. It's got to stay dry now, then we should have great reds,' he speculates. David is very happy with their whites, describing their Chardonnay as 'just beautiful'.

Over in Wellington, relative newcomer making a name for reds is Mont du Toit, with winemaker Pieter-Niel Rossouw. He's just days away from bringing in their (entirely red) grapes, observing: 'The quality of reds look good this year, although their skins are not as thick as last year, which means we may not have that same concentration. I've heard that whites in this area are down by 30% on last year though.'

Former red winemaker at Nederburg, Hennie Huskisson, joined Linton Park in time for the 2001 harvest. He won't be changing their big, bold style for now, although he says making wines on a smaller scale does present creative opportunities. Their Sauvignon and Chardonnay is nearly all in, and is showing 'excellent vineyard flavours and chemical analyses'. Being on mountain slopes means their temperatures are slightly cooler than mainstream Wellington.