South African Wine Harvest Report 2003 - Robertson

Production trends
During the 2003 harvest 172 412 tons of grapes were pressed in the Robertson wine valley (4.3 % more than in 2002). Production of the early cultivars was smaller, with Chardonnay and to a lesser extent early Chenin blanc and Sauvignon blanc being affected. The red grape crop was fairly average, but with a lot of young red grape vineyards coming into full production, there was an increase in total red grape production.

Climatic conditions and influence on vine growth 
The 2003 harvest was preceded by a cold winter with regular, but light rain showers. Budding of the early cultivars in particular was slightly later than normal. Regular strong northwesterly winds from the end of September to November hampered shoot growth. Flowering started slightly earlier, with the shoot lengths being shorter, and extended over a long period. Weather conditions during flowering were on the whole unfavourable. Uneven budding necessitated removal of green bunches.

The 2002/2003 season will probably be remembered as one of the healthiest ever. Some vineyards were affected by oidium late in the season, as well as downy mildew after the March rains, resulting in early loss of leaves. The little white snail was very active early in the season, with mealybug causing problems later in the season.

The 2003 ripening period was characterised by very hot conditions, exacerbated by heatwaves early in December and the first week in February. Different cultivars ripened simultaneously. In some instances Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz were pressed before Chardonnay and Pinotage vineyards. Sugar development was good. After the heatwave at the beginning of February, the acids were low throughout, requiring adjustments.

Very heavy rain on 23 and 24 March caused widespread flood damage, especially in the Ashton, Goudmyn and McGregor areas. Fortunately most blocks had been harvested at that stage. A few vineyards were destroyed, but most merely enjoyed a thorough irrigation before going into the next season. Van Loveren suffered the most damage to its cellar, while Zandvliet and two co-operative producers in Montagu had one or two entire vineyards swept away. At Barrydale Wine Cellar, where the harvest begins and ends later than elsewhere, the delayed effect of the rain was felt with some vineyards becoming waterlogged.

Grape and wine quality
The wines are looking very promising, Chardonnay in particular as well as Sauvignon blanc that had been pressed before the heatwave. Chenin blanc and Colombar wines are full-bodied and fruity. The overall quality of the red wines is good, Pinotage and Shiraz in particular.

Issued by: Yvette van der Merwe, Manager: Information Services - SAWIS (S A Wine Industry Information & Systems)
Tel: +27 (0) 21 807-5719