The 2012 harvest has come and gone in a blur of bountiful activity. As Freddie puts it ‘this is the best year I have seen in my 41 years of working in the vineyards’. Rarely is there such an plentiful harvest where abundance is matched by exceptional quality. Across the board the wines are set to be stella; the white wine is fresh, varietally correct and displays both good depth and structure; the red wines, a bit more difficult to judge at this stage, have great colour and tannin yet remain free from green or raisin flavours.
How did this happen? The ‘grape’ weather has to take a lot of credit. It all started well with the healthy weather and sunny days of November 2010 which determined the fruit set, leading to fruitful buds (or eyes) and ultimately helping to result in the good bunch sets of the 2012 harvest. It’s strange to think that weather conditions from 18 months ago had an influence on this year’s harvest.
The early growing season was dominated by very dry weather with mild sunny days. This encouraged good, even growth patterns and (thankfully!) zero incidence of disease such as the dreaded powdery mildew or its evil cousin downy mildew. Robertson is a dry region so our vines need to be irrigated. This can work in our favour as it enables us to stress our vines at various times and to produce small, intensely flavoured berries. It also results in thick skins for the grapes which provide effective resistance to rot late in the season.
The summer was hot but January more so than usual. I think red grape varieties need a bit of heat during the growing season to burn off any excess herbaceous flavours. So, unpleasant as the scorching weather was, the results on the vines were positive. February and March were milder allowing the grapes a smooth ripening period and avoiding any ‘jammy’, overripe characters.
The sheer size of the harvest meant Johan, our winemaker, had to work magic to fit it into the winery. When the last grapes were received and safely stowed in the cellar, we had harvested over 3,500 tonnes but still had contingency space for 3 more tonnes – how’s that for organisation!