Harvest 2005 Part 2 - High rainfall hits Wellington hardest

Doolhof is producing its first independent vintage under its new British owner, with winemaker Therese Swart at the reins. Grapes were previously sold to Diemersfontein, and Swart predicts a 140-ton harvest in 2005, mostly red. They started picking on January 24 with Sauvignon Blanc, then Chardonnay (for Louisvale) and a small block of Merlot. 

After a staggering 60mm rain on their farm on January 27 - 28, Swart says she's now waiting it out to take samples. 'We get a bit more rain than the rest of the valley because we're near the Bainskloof pass. The weather should clear up; they're talking 36 degrees by Friday,' she reports. For Swart, the slow-down is a mixed blessing. With electricity only installed two days before harvest, this allows her time to get the cellar organised. 

Swart worked as assistant to Boela Gerba at Groot Constantia previously. Gerber was even-keeled on January 31, saying Constantia had 14mm on January 27 and 28. He reckons minimal stress means their vines should manage fine.

Bellingham's Wellington cellar is not as calm. 'We are without power at the moment so I'm stressing!' shouts winemaker Lizelle Gerber. The possibility of rot is another potential worry, after 60 - 70mm fell in the Wellington area between January 27 - 28, and the weekend ended with light drizzle. The 5000-ton cellar brought in titbits of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage in the week of 24 January. 

'In general it seems the grape sugars rushed, then just sat on their bums,' Gerber reports. 'That seems to be the way in Stellenbosch too. Sugars have struggled most in vineyards without irrigation. Sauvignon Blanc has shown nice acids and pH's so far.' Bellingham buys in from Durbanville, Stellenbosch and Paarl. They expect to start harvesting frantically in these areas during the second week of February.

'Stellenbosch had more than 35mm between Thursday Jan 27th and the weekend,' reports Spier winemaker Kobie Viljoen. 'The rains means the somewhat high sugars and acids will drop and hopefully affect the tannins and flavour structures positively. The danger of course is rot.' 

It's unlikely that many grapes will be harvested until the second half of this week. 'Everything is stuck, so most of us are leaving it a few days to allow the sugars to recover. We've got 420 tons in already for Spier wines, most of it white,' adds Viljoen.

Before the rain, Spier picked Sauvignon Blanc from Malmesbury, the Darling valley and Helderberg during the week of 17 January. In reds, they brought in Malbec from Paarl on January 20, and Pinotage from Paarl and Darling valley on January 24. 'It's generally clean if it came in before the rain,' says Viljoen.

Bennie Wannenburg, winemaker of La Cave and Bain's Way ranges at Wellington's Wamakersvallei cellar, says they started on 14 January - nine days earlier than in 2004. 'We've got nice sugars, lower pH's and higher acidities than 2004,' he says. Most of their Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are in; also some Chenin Blanc and lots of Pinotage. 

What are the negatives? 'Some sunburnt grapes from the Wellington and Riebeek Kasteel areas from those really hot days between 17 - 19 January. And last weekend's 60mm of rain hampered things. We started picking on Feb 1 again. We've heard there could be heatwaves later this week, so rot could be a problem with Chardonnay and Chenin we have to bring in.' Wannenberg predicts 2005 volumes could be lower. They've brought in 3300 of their expected 12000 tons.