No rush! 2004 Sauvignon Blanc takes its time

Harvest and stress are invariably linked, yet Springfield's Abrie Bruwer says on the contrary, he stops harvesting if he's too stressed. Since their Sauvignon Blanc started coming in on January 20th, he's left the Robertson farm to fish at Struisbaai every weekend - the current catch is yellowfin tuna.

Getting away for weekends is one of three de-stressing tactics he's deployed since turning 40. Having a harvest siesta after a 6am start is another. The third is: when in doubt about which glass is yours, take the fullest. 

Bruwer reports 'lovely flavours' after a cool January, with only one day at 36°C, but February is warming up. Rain hit scattered farms on Robertson's McGregor side on 24th January, and Springfield had 30mm, but Bruwer says as they were picking anyway, grapes didn't rot. Springfield's harvest started two days later than 2003. Their Sauvignon is vastly reduced on 2003's bumper crop, with their Special Cuvee vineyard reduced by 40%. 

On the Bonnievale end, Weltevrede's Philip Jonker is pacing impatiently. They usually harvest a week later than Robertson's central farms, but 2004 appears to be 10 days later. 'Sauvignon Blanc is not really ripe yet - we've harvested one vineyard but we'll have to wait at least a week for the bulk of it. We've had days with cloud cover, which cools things down. Our Chardonnay will probably only come in towards the end of Feb,' says Jonker. 

Robertson Winery sources 26,000 tons from the whole Robertson and Ashton area, and they started serious Sauvignon harvesting on February 3rd (whites comprise 30% of the total). White winemaker Francois Weich reports some dried out rot from mid-January rain and a slower harvest intake than 2003, but they've got the 'green, grassy' flavours he's after. 

Over in Wellington, Graham Weerts is in good spirits, but a little concerned about the forecasted hot spell. His fear is water stress, especially on dryland vineyards. Otherwise harvest is going well. 'For the first time ever, we started with Merlot before Sauvignon, from a vineyard between Wellington and Riebeeck Kasteel! We started Sauvignon on 2nd Feb, from my warmer sites. Cooler areas like Durbanville, Stellenbosch and Darling will only come in during mid Feb. It's been hell for leather, now its balls to the wall for the rest of the week!' 

Weerts reports 'pretty good' results despite little patches of sunburn, but says he's not ecstatic about 2004 as a Sauvignon vintage. Yet. 

In Stellenbosch, Mike Dobrovich reports normal patterns in the vineyard, but says everything is running one to two weeks later than 2003 - he only stepped on the crushing action on February 2nd. Mulderbosch typically harvests two weeks earlier than other Stellenbosch producers because their lower tonnage allows earlier ripening. 

'Our vines are looking really good this year. I was worried some would go into stress with late January heatwaves but then we had cooler weather and minimal rain in early Feb. I've seen leaf mite on some Stellenbosch farmers' grapes, but it's only affecting those that didn't spray with sulphur,' he reports. 

Dobrovich will be in full Sauvignon swing from February 9th. 'The acidities are very good, which is always a positive indication with Sauvignon. 2003 was a very good Sauvignon year, and the flavours from those same 2003 blocks are even better this year. That's a good indication for 2004.'