High harvest hopes in Rawsonville and Robertson

South Africa's cricket hopes may have been squashed like grapes underfoot, but winemakers are providing every indication that they're on form for a match-winning 2003 harvest. Johan Lotz at Deetlefs Estate in Rawsonville reckons 2003 is his best vintage since 1999, confidently joking: 'I'm expecting a lot of wine awards this year!' His Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are most promising in whites, and the last Pinotage is in. The pace has been evenly spaced for intake of various cultivars. 'We had a heatwave two weeks ago where temperatures were 38 - 53°C, but the grapes were so healthy it didn't have a great effect.'

Kobus Rossouw in Rawsonville's scenic Slanghoek Valley reckons 2003 is one of the area's best vintages in 25 years - for Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in particular - provided producers harvested before the two-week heatwave in mid February. Rossouw makes boutique Jason's Hill wines, and also consults to Worcester cellars. Rossouw says white crops in the region are down, estimating a drop in Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay of 25%. 'The Sauvignon Blanc at Jason's Hill is also down, but it's the best I've seen in years. The same goes for our Semillon, although it's down 50%. We're bringing in Merlot - it's looking promising - with Shiraz next week.'

In remote Robertson valley, Eilandia, Bon Cap is going great guns with harvesting of organic vines for their own labels and for Origin Wines. They've brought in Colombard, their maiden Viognier (a farm and valley first) and a maiden Merlot. Roelf du Preez says the Pinotage going through malo in barrel is 'so good' he's not giving any samples. How is harvest looking? 'Excellent, fabulous, just very deurmekaar! I'm harvesting Cab but my Shiraz isn't near ready. I'm bringing in Cinsaut, which is normally my last variety in. There's going to be one helluva bottleneck next week!'

Robertson's Zandvliet Estate reports a 20-30% loss in their Chardonnay crop (probably due to poor flowering), but Johan van Wyk says it's good quality. They're bringing in Shiraz (including flagship Kalkveld) which 'looks good', but their Merlot is struggling to achieve sugar ripeness. 'We're getting good colour in the ferments. It's early to say, but we're probably looking at a better vintage than 2002. My concern is that we've had a lot of hot days with not enough crucial cooling at night,' offers Van Wyk.

Jan Wentzel at Bonnievale's boutique private Janéza winery is making his third vintage. Wentzel reckons 2003 is his best Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay is looking good. They've harvested Shiraz and maiden Merlot this week, with Cabernet Sauvignon next week. 'Grape quality is very good, while quantity is similar to last year. February is our warmest month, but this year it's been warmer than 2002. We've had a bit of berry shrivelling.'

Springfield's Abrie Bruwer's comments are: 'nice harvest' and 'nice weather'. Temperatures have slowed and they're over the halfway mark, with Cabernet Sauvignon due next week. 'Last year we got sunburnt - with a lot of damage especially to red grapes - but not this year. Sauvignon and Chardonnay are both looking very nice, aside from a bit of rot on the Sauvignon tail end.' Asked to compare 2003 Sauvignon Blanc with previous vintages, Bruwer's quick to retort: 'Don't you know, the wine we're selling is always the best vintage!'
This article was sponsored by Distell WineNews Service