As we get closer to winter, the vines are shedding their leaves and are slowly entering a dormant period. With the arrival of the early winter rains, the cover crops also start growing quicker.
Most of the winter labour centres on pruning vines for the coming year. This can begin as early as June. The first cultivar to be pruned is Sauvignon Blanc, followed by Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Red cultivars are only pruned in August, beginning with Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and lastly Cabernet Sauvignon.
At the start of September when temperatures are rising, the sap will start to flow once again and bud break will occur.
This season, snow settled on our Altima property...
Altima is situated in the Elandskloof, an isolated valley north of Villiersdorp. It is 5km wide and is surrounded by a steep mountain range that rises 1km from the valley floor. During winter months these mountains are characteristically covered in snow. All the surrounding mountains are nature reserves and a single road only connects the valley to the rest of the world via an extremely treacherous pass. The steep topography causes the valley to receive less direct sunlight due to the overhanging mountains. Together with the 600-700m elevation, this equates to a very cool climate in this valley. There are only four farms here, Altima being the only one with developed vineyards.
The vineyards are planted at altitudes starting at 600m above sea level, with the highest block planted at 878m above sea level. Occasionally in winter these vineyards are also covered in snow. The climate is continental, due to the significant difference in temperature between day and night. On the area where the heaviest snowfall was recorded, a young block vine, Aristea-Pinot Noir (clone 777) was planted and trellaced in 2011. The echalas method was used, i.e vine by pole. The height above sea of this particular block is approximately 870m. Snow is an annual occurrence on the surrounding mountains. This year the earliest ever snowfall was recorded namely 2 June 2013. It was accompanied by a 150mm rainfall, as well as light hail.
Vines at Altima are planted as from 624m above sea level. The highest vineyard block is 870m above sea level. The temperature difference is approximately 2 ˚C between the lowest and the highest vineyard. Vineyards enter the dormant period sooner as a result of the very cold, temperate climate.