2012’s cold, wet winter – in which nearly a third more rain than usual was measured – created first-class conditions for the 2013 season. Sufficient cold units meant the vines ended dormancy well, and started the mild, cool Spring season with good, even bud break. Growth was balanced and shoot development was even throughout. However, strong wind in November and December resulted in some damage to the vines and impacted on crop loads in some areas.
One of the most positive spinoffs of the 35% increase in rainfall was that groundwater stocks were fully replenished with the subsoils starting summer at full capacity. Supplemental irrigation was only necessary during the heat of December. Vinpro, the wine industry’s viticultural consultative and information service, reported that the average December temperature was the highest it’s been in 48 years!
By contrast, the first two months of 2013 were cool and mild with exceptionally fresh, even chilly, nights – which was good news for even ripening and subsequent good quality fruit. Consequently, 2013 was excellent for white grapes, with high natural acidity and low ph. At our L’Ormarins and Altima properties the Sauvignon Blanc grapes were packed with flavour while the Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay displayed wonderful intensity and great body on the mid-palate and finish. Even our Pinot Grigio benefitted from the growing season, reaching full ripeness with ample flavour and balance.
Harvest was interrupted for a few days in February because of somewhat unseasonal rain – but it also provided a bit of stress relief for vineyards which hadn’t received any irrigation. It replenished the soil moisture and meant that planned irrigations weren’t necessary.
Vinpro reported that overall harvest kicked off at least a week later than usual in most districts – with some even starting 14 days later. While things went well initially, the later start meant that there was a bit of a concertina effect in some cellars when a variety of reds ripened almost simultaneously, putting pressure on cellar and tank space when it came to fermentation, Vinpro’s Francois Viljoen said.
Furthermore, he’s optimistic about the initial quality reports on Merlot and Shiraz while Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc yields and quality showed improvement over the previous vintage with better colour and flavour extraction. Viljoen said winemakers could look forward to a promising year, particularly for whites. The colour and analyses on reds was exceptional, he added, especially for Pinotage.
Autumn harvest programme
Once harvest is over, thoughts and farming activities focus once again on replenishing the vine’s resources. Following an analysis of both the soil and vine leaves the vineyard soils are then fertilised as each block requires. It’s also important that a good, long drink of water – 12 hours minimum – is given to the vines immediately after harvest. All of the above ensure that the vines enter winter with the reserves they need.
The natural process of leaves turning yellow or brown and then falling from the vine takes place in April. At the same time, vineyard staff turn their hands to sowing the cover crops which will grow between the rows during winter. Not only do these keep the weeds down, they assist in preserving soil moisture and can also feed some nutrients into the soil.
Next up – but only in July – will be pruning, starting with the white grapes.