Our Winemaker & Viticulturist’s Take on the 2020 Harvest
Mother Nature is simply marvellous and how fortunate were we to once again observe just how complex and astounding nature is in all its wonder. All our hard work during the 2020 season most certainly paid off, delivering grapes of the highest quality with excellent flavour, great depth, balance and concentration. Not only were the berries and bunches of exceptional quality this season, but this was by far also the biggest harvest in the history of De Toren, with over 200 tons of grapes harvested.
The 2019-2020 season officially commenced with the clean pruning of our Merlot vineyard blocks on the 3rd of July 2019. This was then also the first season we implemented our new Felco electro portable scissors, in line with our ‘extreme care’ philosophy, as opposed to the traditional ones previously used, and the results most definitely exceeded our expectations! This allowed us to increase the optimal speed and precision of our pruning actions in our De Toren vineyards. Ultimately, leading to greater effectiveness and accuracy to ensure even more consistent quality in our vineyards, which ultimately reflects in each of our iconic wines.
The overall rainfall for the year was rather sufficient at 421,6mm in total. This meant we had a much higher level of water than in recent years, and it succeeded in saturating our soil water profile as needed. In time, this also played an imperative role in the growth of our vines and allowed us to cultivate the highest quality grapes throughout the season.
The first signs of budburst commenced on the 9th of September 2019 in our Merlot vineyard blocks. During early budburst season we received two consecutive days of rain and hence, the first spray of the season was soon implemented. We had a great season for growing quality grapes during the spraying season, since we only had 15 days of rain in total from budburst to harvest. Compared to the previous 2018-2019 season, the vine canopies looked great with only a very small amount showing possible signs of downy mildew, making it rather easy to manage quickly and effectively.
Since we’re renowned for precision in everything we do here at De Toren, our focus also includes taking care of the estate’s aesthetic appearance as a whole. Hence, we did not only focus on getting perfect vineyards in our younger vineyard blocks this season, but also in our older blocks with regards to straight up shoots. This then also ensured better air ventilation and clean stems in these older vineyard blocks. Ultimately resulting in improved sunlight penetration onto the vine canopies and thus producing grapes of exceptional quality with extraordinary fruity flavours.
Our vineyards’ shoot growth was strong and much more even compared to previous seasons. During this period, we did not experience any extremely cold temperatures or nights. This meant there was no setback caused to the quality of our vineyards’ shoots and the growth thereof.
When it came to the management of the vine canopies later on in the season, we mostly made use of a leaf removal approach. We focused on including the side shoots of the vines in the canopy rather than cutting the side shoots out – meaning leaving more leaves on the vine. This enabled much better protection for our bunches against any sunburn, which further enhanced better grape development compared to the previous 2018-2019 season.
Flowering & Growth Season
During spring and summer we experienced rather mild temperatures between 20 to 31 degrees Celsius. October was probably the most important month due to the flowering stage in our De Toren vineyards. This period was slightly more challenging, receiving five days of rain (73mm) – this was the most rain received during the growth season. However, as the season progressed the weather improved with only nine days below 20 degrees and 7 days above 31 degrees Celsius, which meant great development periods for our grapes.
From a viticultural perspective, the 2020 grapes had really good phenolic content. The flowering and concurrent phenological development in the vineyards was atypical with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec’s development being the same (or even earlier) than that of the Merlots.
The 2020 harvest will be remembered as one of the most compacted harvest seasons in the history of De Toren. We truly could not have asked for a better harvest season and our team were harvesting almost every day during this time. Our incredible and experienced team of ladies hand harvested every cultivar and vineyard block according to its readiness in the cool of the early morning. Hereafter we brought these bunches in to the cellar for select hand sorting and selection before placing them in our custom-designed fermentation tanks.
With a super-concentrated harvest time frame, we achieved great extraction while maintaining great fruit character this season. Our great blocks had enough time on the skins. Our normally more understated blocks also showed great promise with our younger blocks starting to come of age with improved volumes and more balanced wines.
De Toren’s 2020 harvest officially kick-started with our Shiraz grapes which make up The Black Lion our opulent Shiraz offering. The 2020 Shiraz grapes, produced and sourced from our Swartland vineyard, were rather small this year. But make no mistake, these Shiraz grapes are more powerful than ever! Full bodied, with great depth – one can certainly expect some truly expressive flavours from this robust wine.
Our Merlot grapes were the first to be harvested on the estate itself, here at De Toren. These ruby-hued beauties definitely stood out this year, showing off not only in the number of bunches harvested by hand, but also in size when compared to previous seasons. All the while delivering superior quality and absolute elegance.
Our expressive 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were quite the opposite from our Merlots. From our visual observation at first, these grapes were much smaller in size but carry a lot of intensity. Hence, we expect this varietal to reflect a huge amount of power in the 2020 vintage of our iconic De Toren Fusion V.
The Malbec grapes displayed great, clean fruit spectrums for the 2020 vintage with tons of aromatics. Hence, the wines from the 2020 vintage will definitely stand out in terms of elegance and their aromatic potential.
Our 2020 vintage Cabernet Franc grapes were one of the most expressive varieties this season with a wide selection – some being heavier than usual and others bringing that typical herbaceous character that is highly prominent. This cultivar maintains an excellent freshness and crisp acidity which will allow for the wine to age gracefully and add elegance to the final vintage blends.
The Petit Verdot for 2020 seemed to be slightly more mineral driven. This finally led to immensely prominent cultivar characteristics and structured tannins which will be used in small amounts in the final blends, after an extended period of required barrel maturation.
All and all, this was a spectacular harvest season! Although it posed a few challenges here and there, we’ve implemented further improvements across the board. We believe we achieved optimal phenolic ripeness and have great components to work with going forward. We’ve covered the whole spectrum this season from having heavier, bolder wines to wines which stand out in elegance and some in their aromatic potential. We also implemented a few new organic winemaking techniques in the cellar which looks very promising for the future, in diversifying the flavour and structure spectrum even further. The wines from the 2020 vintage will be more dark fruit dominant with big structured pallets, encapsulating all the complexity and intensity as shown in our analysis. We can without a doubt say that this turned out to be yet another stellar vintage for De Toren Private Cellar.