Harvest 2005 Part 1

After the Cape's recent dry spell, drizzles of the watery kind were unexpected. Yet Constantia had an estimated 5mm overnight on January 24. Steenberg's John Loubser says it didn't impact on their next day's 3am picking program. He brought in five tons of Pinot Noir on January 19, followed by six tons of Chardonnay on February 20 - both destined for bubbly base wines for Constantia Uitsig, where Loubser is a consultant. 

Some of Uitsig's Sauvignon Blanc is also picked for Steenberg's wine, and it's these grapes that came off super-early on January 25. 'We've got 150 tons of Sauvignon Blanc to bring in for the Steenberg label, so we have to make a start. Our Ballings range from 19 - 24.5° so it evens out,' Loubser explains. 'Our Sauvignon harvest kicked off with a few blocks on Jan 24, and we've now got 20 tons. We're doing a few blocks here and there, but it's in drips and drabs.'

Constantia neighbour Buitenverwachting hasn't picked their own grapes - the wine team anticipates their sparkling wine Chardonnay won't be ripe enough until the weekend. January 17 did bring in Sauvignon Blanc from an annual grape supplier in Somerset West at 20° Balling though - 10 days earlier than 2004. January 25 saw the start of Buitenverwachting's 100-ton order of Chenin Blanc for their sell-out Buiten Blanc, from the same Somerset West farm.

Constantia Uitsig's André Rosseau says grapes are looking good, but very uneven budding of Sauvignon Blanc was noticeable in 2004. He anticipates the farm will pick their higher Sauvignon blocks for Constantia Uitsig wine by the end of the week.

'I'll talk to you in 10 minutes. We've just blown a bag in the press!' shouts Graham Beck Robertson cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira over the clang of machinery. An hour later, a calmer Bubbles Ferreira reports nearly 600 tons of sparkling wine base grapes is in the bag. Just as well, considering that their next release of non-vintage Brut is already allocated to the trade. 'Everything seems to be 10 days earlier. Pinot Noir from our Firgrove vines is in; also Pinot bought in from Bottelary. We should finish picking for bubbly by January 27,' he says. The Robertson cellar also picked Pinotage for rosé last week. 

Robertson weather is keeping viticulturists and winemakers on their toes, with 135mm of rain falling over eight hours, days before Christmas. Another 25mm fell on January 14. Yet Bubbles Ferreira is optimistic: 'We could get a bit of berry split and can't spray for botrytis, so we're adjusting our picking methods. But we've got some base wines fermented dry already and they're looking delicious.'

With scattered picking on the outskirts of Paarl and in Darling, Stellenbosch's Waterford harvested their young Sauvignon Blanc vineyard on January 20. Kevin Arnold reckons that's three weeks earlier than 2004. 'It's probably due to the heat as the berries are particularly small. But the fruit quality is wonderful - both acids and pH. It's just bubbling away now,' the winemaker enthuses above the din of glass. 'It was quite a shock because we still had a week of bottling to complete - I'm doing it now!' He estimates their other grapes will come in 10 to 14 days earlier.