Winemaker Charles on the 2019 Vintage…
The story of the 2019 vintage commenced much earlier than one would expect. To be precise, it started merely one month after the 2018 vintage found itself snug in the cellar.
The month of April 2018 brought some much needed rain and our soils soaked up every inch of this life-giving moisture. It was the first heavy rains in three years and winter would turn out to be closer to the norm and much wetter than the preceding years. The 385mm of rain received during the months of April through to September, fully saturated our soil profile.
This was followed by a very cool Spring season and budding was very much even. One thing that stood out and was of interest, is that all varieties started budburst around the same time. This is something that normally happens at various times over a period of 2-3 weeks, depending on the variety.
Conditions were absolutely perfect during bloom and fruit set. Usually, this phenological window is frequented with very strong winds that affect the quality and quantity of fruit set. This year these winds only arrived weeks after set was completed.
The period, October 20th to 27th, delivered some outlying temperatures, with the average daily temperatures being around 33°C and the maximums close to 36°C. But, apart from that, temperatures were very mild and desirable. Dare I even say that November, December and January, were perfectly cool with out of the ordinary cold fronts, frequenting the peninsula weekly during the latter part of 2018 and the beginning of 2019.
There is no doubt that these mild, cool temperatures make for perfect ripening, but on the other hand, these constant precipitations also created perfect conditions for the occurrence of Downey Mildew. This is a disease of wet weather, as the contamination caused by fungus-like organisms, is favoured by prolonged wetness of plant leaves. Being in the final stages of completing our organic conversion, to receive the official certification, we had to keep an eye on the weather 24/7. We fortunately succeeded, with extensive planning and sufficient preparation, of course! With a combination of natural fungicide and plant immune boosters applied at precision timing, we were largely able to weather the storm, so to speak, keeping our plants and grapes healthy and looking great.
Like bloom, conditions during veraison was mild and the grapes coloured homogenously and quickly, allowing for less green harvesting than normal. One of the remarkably distinctive features of this vintage, apart from the great fruit set and veraison periods, was the natural balance the vines achieved with minimal human intervention.
Following this, February, the warmest month of the Western Cape arrived. We tend to quickly forget the kind of temperatures February is known for, especially after such a “European” start to the summer. This month graced us with sunny, warm weather and the vines and grapes soaked it all up. The phenolic content is the best we have seen in a very long time (and that includes reputable vintages such as 2015 and 2017), grapes are maturing to perfection at lower sugar levels and with greater levels of natural acidity.
Combine all the above mentioned with the fact that the season “turned” towards the end of February, resulting in more moderate, milder temperatures, and you will get all vinophiles extremely excited! In layman’s terms, the season’s conditions are allowing the grapes to mature to perfection at a slow but steady rate. This allows us the fortunate opportunity of harvesting each and every parcel of grapes at the very peak of complexity, without any other elements or factors influencing the decision.
What more could a winemaking team ask for?!