Winemaker, Charles, reminisces over the recent 2017 harvest
As I am writing this 2017 harvest report, my assistant winemaker, Martin, is gently pressing the very last vessel of our Petit Verdot. Harvest 2017 is officially concluded! I always find myself somewhat reminiscent on days like these, emotions similar to enjoying a great glass of wine with best friends, joking about the good old days …
Looking back at my vintage report, written early January, all the memories of early season challenges such as the limited rainfall, the record-breaking temperatures in recent years, the vigorous fires that affected so many of the other wine farms in our area and the water restrictions due to the drought in SA – it all came flooding back. I remember the meticulous planning, the educated and carefully considered decisions we made based on our expert knowledge of our terroir, the sound scientific principles we based decisions on and well, a little bit of a gut feeling for what was to come.
In my vintage report I made the comment that the 2017 harvest was revealing itself as a classic Cinderella story . And boy, am I happy to report that it is indeed so. What a spectacular vintage!
January and February continued with mild daytime temperatures and colder evening time temperatures. There was no sign of rain during this period, the dew from the cold evenings being virtually enough to sustain the plant’s need for moisture. This enabled us to very accurately manage the water restraints within the vines, allowing us to harvest each parcel at the best possible time when considering the grape concentrations.
The above mentioned planning and the relentless and continuous management of the vineyards, culminated in vines that were well balanced and restraint with concentrated berries to be harvested. The grapes harvested this season and the wine made from these grapes, perfectly reflects the vintage of 2017. The wines are expressive, yet nobly modest and the expression of the cultivar, aromas and taste sensations are pure and complex.
Herewith a short overview of each individual cultivar from the 2017 harvest:
The power, fruit and elegance that we experience in the Merlot wines, confirms our strong belief that if Merlot is planted in the right terroir and meticulous care is taken to perfectly manage and maintain the canopy architecture and bunch microclimate, these vines will deliver exceptional results.
The individual blocks of Cabernet Franc reacted very uniquely to the vintage. This was the grape we had to keep the closest eye one and had to listen to all the time to ensure that the individual blocks were attended to in terms of their respective needs, also when it came to harvesting these different blocks. Some vineyard blocks displayed red and black cherries, some more delicate fruit with raspberry aromas. The common thread with these individual vines was definitely the purity and expression of the cultivars and its perfumy essence.
To me, the Malbec was the one of the biggest revelations amongst all the cultivars. Usually, Malbec is quite an exuberant cultivar, but this year, the Malbec had a gentle understatement to it. This continued throughout the harvesting period and even throughout the primary fermentation. One of the techniques we make use of after primary fermentation is called Post Fermentation Maceration (PFM). This means we leave the wine to soak in the presence of the skins in the absence of any oxygen, only mixing the wine and skins once a day with a very gentle punch down. Approximately 10 days into PMF, the wine evolved tremendously, almost overnight, and came to steal the spotlight! It just took some time for the wine to reveal its beauty and I would have to say it is one of the most stunning wines in our cellar at the moment!
The Petit Verdot wines are truly astonishing! These vines truly made us wait for it. We have three blocks of Petit Verdot and all three vineyard blocks really took their time in slowly accumulating phenolic ripeness. Even after achieving that, we had the sense that it could evolve even more. So we waited. The two smaller and younger blocks, are everything you envision an old world Petit Verdot to be. It has raw power, big tannins, succulent flavour and delightful aromas! The older block shows these same characteristics, just more elegantly packaged.
2017 a Cabernet Sauvignon year? Without a doubt, my answer is YES! The wines are embodying everything that a Cabernet Sauvignon should be–big and bold, whilst boasting complexity and fine, velvety, mouth filling, elegant tannins. The wines are pure and a certain freshness of the vintage is reflected in them. We cannot wait to see these wines after a year of ageing in very origin specific French oak barrels.
As I continue to reminisce over the 2017 harvest, I can again confirm that this was a true Cinderella story, and all of us, as the De Toren team, are privileged, humbled and so appreciative, to have been part of this fairy tale. We look forward to releasing this extraordinary vintage to you in two to three year’s time…