A very noble year…
After the back to back years of drought conditions in Stellenbosch, the much needed rain finally arrived in winter. The Vines responded well and the yields were looking good. There was a short heat wave in winter which caused the younger Chardonnay vines to bud and used up their reserves far too early in the season and some of the red cultivars to have uneven ripening later on in the harvest season. This resulted in a considerably lower yield of Chardonnay and most red cultivars. November and December was one of the most mild summer conditions we have had in a long time, if not the coldest. If this weather persisted during the harvest months it would be the ideal conditions for a perfect vintage.
The vineyard experts warned every one of the high possibility of “downy mildew” and they were very right. We fortunately were very well prepared for this. January and February yet again produced mild conditions but with it some very unusual rain. Some of the down pours were up to 20mm of rain. The Pinotage blocks harvested early in the season benefited from the mild weather in January and produced vibrant Rosé wines as well as elegant red wines. Cold conditions produced white grapes with naturally higher acids than usual, which is a huge advantage that mostly only European cold climate countries get. In addition to that it gave us an opportunity of picking the white varietals in the very cold mornings to ensure the aromatic profile of the grapes were at their optimal levels. The Yields for all white grapes were up except the younger blocks of Chardonnay which were affected by the early budding.
And then the rain… The mid-February down pours put all the vineyards of hold. This resulted that the grapes could reach phenolic ripens at a much lower sugar concentrations and also extended harvest period. The only down side to this was the risk of rot infection in the grapes. We managed to harvest our red grapes at lower sugar levels (lower alcohol) and at optimal ripens, much like a European vintage. I expect to see a lot of elegant red wines that have massive aromatic components to them coming out of the 2019 vintage. The yields unfortunately for the red cultivars were down considerably due to uneven ripening.
The back end of the harvest season could possibly the highlight of the vintage. With the all climatic condition combined it created the ideal environment for the development of Noble rot (Botrytis
cinerea) in the vineyards. The Riesling block that is used only in years that noble rot occurs for the Edelspatz, was coated in noble rot. This produced phenomenal yield of exceptional quality. The Riesling also had a much higher natural acidity. Overall view of the vintage was that the white, rose and noble late harvest wines will be of exceptional quality with the reds being far more elegant than what we are used to in South Africa with lower alcohols.