Cool Chardonnay Harvest on De Wetshof Sees Excellent Quality in Lower Yields
Dense clouds bearing splashes of summer rain in the Robertson region has led to De Wetshof’s 2019 harvest kicking off in a manner that can be described as stop-start-wait.
While the early low-sugar Chardonnay for Cap Classique was being harvested from the middle of January in dry, mild conditions, picking the bulk of the estate’s grapes for its famous Chardonnay terroir-specific range only got underway in mid-February.
“There was that 24mm drenching we got on the week-end in the beginning of February, and then in the week of 11 February light morning rain held back our picking schedule,” says Johann de Wet, CEO of De Wetshof. “This lead to harvesting only getting away around lunch-time, with some late nights in the cellar. With 70% of our crop being Chardonnay from blocks ripening simultaneously, managing logistics in the winery is as important as picking at the correct sugar readings.”
Despite the summer rain, De Wet says the fruit quality is stunning. “We have the southerly wind fanning in from the Indian Ocean some 90km away, so as soon as the rain stopped the grapes lose excessive moisture,” he says. “No sign of any diseases or pests, thus, and absolutely stunning chemistry in the fruit – better than last year.”
The quality of grapes can be attributed to the cool growing season during spring and summer. “Here on De Wetshof we have had one or two summer days where the mercury headed well into the 30’s. It has generally been a mild and cool season, so if it is vintage variation you are looking for, the wines from 2019 will show this when compared to warmer years such as 2012 and 2016.”
The fermenting Chardonnays are showing varietal expression and concentrated aromas and flavour profiles. “This is going to be a great year for diversity in De Wetshof’s Chardonnay portfolio consisting of five wines each made from a different geographical site on the farm. Each site’s individual soil profile and climatic exposure is expressing itself to optimum levels, allowing each wine to show its unique fingerprint derived from the site-specific origin.”
Another feature of the 2019 vintage is lower yields. “Despite winter rainfall having been back to normal last year, the vines have still not recovered from the extended drought the Cape experienced from 2015 to 2018,” he said. “The vines’ complex root systems and delicate reaction to climate conditions take time to overcome the kind of stress caused by four years of dry weather and excessive heat. This, together with uneven flowering and bud-break in spring, has resulted in a lower crop.
“But that is a relatively small price to pay for the kind of quality we are seeing this year.”