Harvest 2001: wrap-up of the Winelands

From the rocky outcrops of the Cederberg, through the Swartland, Robertson valley and even Klein Karoo, producers are speculating that 2001 could be a pretty special vintage. Admittedly, one with lower yields, but with concentrated flavour all round.

De Meye winemaker Marcus Milner thinks 2001 could be one of the best over 10 years, and he rates it alongside 1991, 1994, 1995 and 1997. 'It's fairly early days but for my wines, 2001 is looking very good. I didn't struggle with colour or ferments.' Expect an added twist because Milner is leaving the wines on skins longer for softer tannins, and he's got some interesting Cabernet Sauvignon experiments.

Down the road at Joostenberg, young Tyrrel Myburgh is only making his second vintage single-handedly, but he says most of Paarl is pretty pleased with 2001 results. Says Myburgh: 'Our whites are looking good - most have finished fermenting - while with reds it's our first crop so I can't really say. We've got a tiny block of Cab still hanging.'

Out west, at Darling Cellars, Abe Beukes was more cautious, feeling that three dry winters have taken their toll. 'There's a lot of talk about 2001 being an outstanding vintage, but at this stage the industry seems to be about 10% down - we're actually 30% down on 2000 thanks to unirrigated vineyards. In South African history, a small crop is never the best because smaller berry size reflects vine stress. I'd say 2001 will be as good as 98, and definitely better than 99 or 2000,' he predicted.

Chris Keet reported that Helderberg-based Cordoba is bucking the trend. 'We're up on average by 45% because our reds were lower last year. Our Chardonnay crop is a little lower (20%) but our reds are up a lot. The early to mid-season ripeners are looking awesome - Merlot and Cab Franc has lovely flavours, concentration and excellent colour,' said Keet, likening 2001's weather conditions to 1997's.

At 1000m altitudes, Cederberg Wines' Dawid Nieuwoudt said their earlier cultivars - Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Chenin - are looking better than 2000's, although crops are lower. 'We're still busy with malolactic fermentation for reds, but there are nice fruit extracts. We're still picking Ruby Cab and will start Cabernet Sauvignon soon. So unlike most of the industry, we'll be pumping over at Easter,' he sighed.

Over in Robertson, Springfield's Abrie Bruwer believes 2001 could possibly be the best - and easiest - vintage of his career. 'My grandfather said you're a bad planner if you can't go on holiday for six weeks during harvest. Imagine what his wines must have tasted like! But this year has been so streamlined I have managed to slip away once,' he confessed. Springfield's Sauvignons are looking good, while their Chardonnay has yielded lower crops, in line with Robertson's 40 - 50% lower Chardonnay trend, but Bruwer says the wines are 'super'.

Lets not forget Barrydale, where Meyer Joubert reports 'fantastic quality' due to a very cool, late summer. The bulk of his fruit goes to Barrydale Winery, but 15% goes to the family's boutique Joubert-Tradauw Winery. 'Barrydale's Chardonnay crop was normal, compared to Stellenbosch. The quality will be better than previous vintages, but 2001 will definitely be later. Our Cabernet Sauvignon will only be picked in mid April,' he concluded.