Harvest Report 5 - Red alert for some Boland and Klein Karoo cellars

Van Loveren may be first to hit the market with a bottle of Van Loveren Light White 2006 (a new 9% alcohol release) made from Semillon harvested on January 11, but developments in other wine areas are a way off.

Jordan's Stellenbosch harvest 2006 kicked off on February 3rd with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc, and the cellar celebrated its 14th vintage on February 14th. Gary and Ted Jordan start their days at 3am on a regular basis, with assistance from their 2006 cellar team which includes an Austrian, Namibian and a South-African-in-California vineyard manager nicknamed 'Druiwe'. They've harvested blocks of Sauvignon, Chenin and Chardonnay already, but Gary Jordan predicts crunch time will be from February 23 - Merlot, Chardonnay and the first lot of Cabernet coming in. Other Stellenbosch producers are singing a similar tune about reds. Jordan reports more balanced acidities and better pHs than previous years.

Anthony de Jager of Fairview is 'chilling out' in Paarl at 36°C. 'We've had serious temperatures. Somebody better pull out the plug on this global warming soon,' he quips. 'We're at the harvest halfway point where we'd normally be really busy. With some slightly cooler days after the heat, vines have hung back and recovered somewhat. The guys at Perdeberg and Simonsvlei are seeing similar things,' he reports. De Jager predicts a busy time for the second-last week of February. Fairview's sites include Darling - just about done on Sauvignon and Chenin with 'lovely stuff' - and Paarl Viognier that kicked off on February 6th, all in. 'We're 80% done with Pinotage, and halfway with Shiraz from Paarl. Stellenbosch Sauvignon is finished. We're probably looking at young Stellenbosch Shiraz this week, and older Shiraz vines in 10 days time. We'll probably harvest Shiraz and Merlot from Stellenbosch together.'

For dryland vines in the Malmesbury and Agter-Paarl area, De Jager says 2006 isn't too different from 2005 - a good winter produced more soil moisture hence less vine stress, but no rain from December to February and increased south-easter winds have pushed harvest slightly later. 'Shiraz is quite deurmekaar throughout the wine regions in terms of veraison so I was worried,' he says. 'But we're finding we're getting good results in Malmesbury and Paarl because we're selecting well during picking.' 

Cerina de Jongh of Seidelberg says they've been harvesting for longer than most Paarl neighbours. 'We've been busy since January 18. As usual, we brought in Pinotage bushvines before the whites. Sugars were almost 26° balling,' she says. They've brought in Sauvignon and Chenin blocks, harvested Malbec for Rosé and are busy with Merlot. She singles out Pinotage as 'looking very good' in tank as it goes through malo. With a smaller crop overall (berries and lighter weight), De Jongh is upbeat about harvesting their first blocks of Merlot Reserve on February 17: 'Something new is a berry sorting table, which should give us a quality improvement in this wine. Flavours are exciting!'

Joubert-Tradauw in Barrydale harvested Sauvignon Blanc for Southern-Cape Vineyards (a collaboration between Barrydale and Ladysmith co-ops) on February 13th, but Beate Joubert predicts they'll only bring in their flagship R62 Chardonnay towards the end of February. She says it's normal in the Klein Karoo for them to harvest later than Calitzdorp.

In contrast, Boets Nel of De Krans says Calitzdorp is full of activity. 'We're very close to halfway. It's been a very dry season and the last few days have been hot - a couple above 40°,' he reports. On the port side, they're busy with Touriga Nacional and Tinta is already in (they've been harvesting Tinta since the first week of February). The De Krans 2006 crop is looking 10% bigger with better quality, but then 2005 was a smaller yield compared to their average. 'Acid levels are high compared to other years. Our Touriga was 6.2 acidity with sugar of 26.5,' Nel reports. 'Usually when sugar is above 25, acidity falls to 5, but this year it's stayed up there. Colours and extracts are also better, so 2006 quality should be a lot better than last year.'