This year’s harvest continued the trend of the last three years by being earlier than anticipated. Luckily it was not as early as we predicted back in September/October 2019. During this time it seemed that harvest would begin early January.
Subsequently, it did begin early, but only for those producers that made bubbles. Our harvest however started on the same day as last year and continued to be following the same pattern for the first week, but after that things were very different.
We harvested Pinot Noir first. The grapes where beautiful and we eased into harvest with no rush and no hassles. Following this, we moved on to Chardonnay. What was expected to be a crop of similar size (or slightly less) to 2019 turned into a much bigger surprise!
Not that we are complaining, it only meant that we harvested Chardonnay for a few days longer than expected.
February showed to be very hot during the day and cold at night. Due to the temperature fluctuation, most of the grape cultivars ripened rapidly. But what made this even more challenging was that the grapes did not ripen evenly – sugars varied extremely between bunches and even between berries on the same bunch.
During the second week of harvest as we tapered off on the Chardonnay and started on the Grenache for our Rosé, the sugar readings from the other cultivars started to show a very worrying trend. They were all sitting roughly at the same level, approximately 20˚B.
With the weather being the way it was, this created a bit of a logistical nightmare for the weeks ahead, because it meant that all the grapes would be ripe at roughly the same time.
The second week of February came around and we were facing a new conundrum, our Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were both ripe and needed to be harvested, along with most of our Grenache. Again the fortune of 2020 struck and our tonnage was higher than expected. As welcoming as that was, it left me with the problem of not having any space in the cellar to continue harvesting.
We had a little bit of luck with a short spell of rain that retarded the grapes for a few days and gave the cellar team the much-needed time to process a few ferments and clear some space in the cellar for the next round of grapes.
This became the routine for our harvest over the three weeks that followed. Harvest what was the most critical until capacity was reached, then wait a few days to be able to press so that we could harvest again.
With the grapes all ripe at the same rate we found some parcels were much riper than we expected and for the first time since 2016 we had grapes enter the cellar above 25˚B.
We finished with the last batch of grapes on the 5th of March, the Piekenierskloof Grenache.
Luckily, we were fortunate enough to have all the grapes in the cellar before the lockdown period was announced, which means our wines are currently going through fermentation and being monitored, as per government regulations, to ensure we get the full potential out of the 2020 harvest.
Overall a very interesting season, with some very promising wines.