Despite all the woes South Africa has had to contend with in places other than the vineyard, the 2021 harvest is already being regarded as one having great potential.
Of course, comments on any harvest, as initially made by the winemaker, will sometimes get a bit of massaging by the marketing department to make it seem like the best harvest ever. That’s why we asked six wine-industry personalities give us their honest take on the 2021 harvest so far.
Straight from the horse’s mouth, here’s what they had to say.
Bravehearts rule at Creation
“Oh, for the aroma of freshly crushed grapes! Yes, it’s harvest time and at Creation the excitement runs high,” said Carolyn Martin, co-owner and marketing director at Creation Wines in the Hemel en Aarde Valley.
“True to tradition, pinot noir, the prince of reds, is as good looking as ever, healthy [and has] no shrivel due to the cooler weather with even ripening.”
At Creation they’ve seen exceptional quality fruit: “Small, compact bunches with small berries promise a lot of concentration.
“Little intervention is needed in the cellar. Nature has played its part to make life easier for the winemakers,” Martin said. “They tried to take our sales, but they can never take our harvest!”
Jaco Engelbrecht: 2021 harvest ‘very promising’
Passionate viticulturalist Jaco Engelbrecht, the brain behind the Visual Viticulture blog, is slightly more cautious.
“The harvest has been quite good, but this strange aura surrounds everything we do these days. The quality seems very promising, but there are a lot of grapes still out on the vines.
“The very late season seems good on paper, but with our drought situation the vines are starting to show signs of shutting down in some places.
“I’m always careful to comment on the harvest during harvest. It’s like asking a team at halftime who is going to win when the scores are tied — no-one knows!”
2021 harvest suggests ‘beautiful balance’, says Ken Forrester
So the joy of harvest has once again come to be celebrated. “Was it really just a year ago? Before any lockdowns?” mused South African wine legend Ken Forrester.
“We’ve had fantastic rains, cool weather and a good-looking crop with its usual challenges — mildew and the like — just to keep us on our toes! We’re into the third selection of grapes from the FMC [Forrester Meinert Chenin] Vineyard andm, as the name suggests, they’re looking marvelous!
“The juice so far has been deliciously concentrated and beautifully balanced – we’re all really excited. The dogs are not thrilled with the early mornings but seem to be catching up just fine.”
Rustenberg: ‘The harvest is late but great’
Rustenberg Wine Estate’s Murray Barlow said he was keeping his verdict short and sweet: “The harvest is late but great.”
At Rustenberg, in Stellenbosch, they usually start the harvest in the last week of January with Chardonnay. However, Barlow said this year they only began harvesting in the second week of February.
“The only vintage that comes close to us starting this late in the last 20 years was the difficult 2004 vintage, when we started on 6 February.”
Groote Post: ‘All four seasons in one vintage’
“In Afrikaans, one says that when a person turns 21, that they are now ‘mondig’, meaning it is your coming of age,” said Lukas Wentzel of Groote Post, near Darling. “This is my 21st vintage at Groote Post and what a coming of age it is.
“In the 21 years of making wine on the farm, I’ve experienced all four seasons in one vintage, sometimes even in one day. This year was the pinnacle of all the vintages.
“One could compare the harvest to a long, stretched-out rubber band. We’ve stretched the harvest ripening process for the longest ever, with cold days, making the grape ripening longer. All of a sudden, a heatwave struck us and the grapes screamed ‘pick me, pick me’.
“Just as in life, harvest is unpredictable. As the end nears, the red wine grapes are coming in and show full flavours. Now to get the grapes processed and wine in the bottle!”
Fairview’s 2021 harvest ‘never to be forgotten’
“The 2021 harvest is definitely one I’ll never forget: Walking around with a mask with glasses fogging up, trying to taste, smell and test wines, has been a challenge to say the very least,” Anthony de Jager, of Fairview in Paarl, said.
“Apart from that we’ve been really happy thus far with the quality of fruit we’ve taken in. Thanks to good winter rains and a rather mild summer, the grapes have had ample hang time on the vines to gradually achieve ripeness and the wines are definitely going to be better for it.
“It does look to be a slightly bigger crop this year, so that, coupled with the carry-over from last year, means there’s going to be a lot of wine to go around in South Africa. We’re going to need our customers to go for it!”