Raindrops kept falling … and falling

rain cape winelands

Heavy January downpours on Excelsior

rain cape winelands robertsonThe beginning of January was marked with heavy downpours in the Robertson area. Our annual rainfall is around 280 mm per year, but from 6-9 January this year we already recorded 150 mm of rain, or just over half or our expected rainfall!
The problem with high rainfall just before ripening commences, commonly known as veraison, is that it leads to disease pressures. Two types of fungus, downy mildew and powdery mildew can defoliate the vine. This loss of leaves most probably leads to crop loss and has a negative effect on the quality of the grapes.
Another risk is that of rot in one of two forms – botrytis, also known as noble rot, or the more common sour rot. There is nothing good about sour rot, but botrytis can add to a white wine’s complexity. It is however no good for red wines, as the grape skin breaks down and a great amount of colour is lost.
Given the heavy rains, we had to spray for fungus, which is something we rarely have to do in Robertson’s dry climate. Thankfully, so far disease presence has been fairly low, with the exception of isolated cases. Some vines rooted in clay soils became saturated and caused the berries to burst open and rot – and not the good kind! The remainder of the vineyards are in good condition, albeit a bit lush for this time of the year.
All irrigation has stopped and Robertson vines are “dry grown” this year, similar to the vineyards of Europe. We hope this contributes to quality in the long run.
In Grandfather De Wet’s time it was common practice to flood irrigate the vineyards at around the same time as the big rains. The soil was completely saturated, but the quality of the grapes nevertheless excellent. Maybe we are relearning some of the old ways. Please hold thumbs with us!

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