Harvest 2017: South Africa
For the second year in a row, South Africa experienced an unusually hot, dry growing season.
But unlike 2016, cooler nights and an absence of any significant heatwaves didn’t lead to low yields, with total intake 1.4% higher than the previous year. These dry conditions allowed healthy vineyards to flourish, and the variation between hot days and cooler nights resulted in small berries with good colour and flavour concentration.
Wines of South Africa CEO, Siobhan Thompson said, “Having spoken to many of our producers, general sentiment is that the harvest was one of the best seen in many years, specifically in terms of quality. The cooler than normal weather experienced in February saw to more even ripening … We are looking forward to seeing what this somewhat exceptional vintage does for South African wines as a whole in international markets.”
Buyer Paul Meihuizen said “I am very excited about the 2017 vintage, as although the country is currently going through a water crisis, all signs at this stage point to a really good vintage, quality wise. The lack of water this year was fortunately countered by cooler than normal temperatures which has saved the harvest this year. A few isolated areas were hit by black frost during the flowering period, but on the whole most areas in the country are very pleased with the results of this vintage. Everyone is still praying for the rains but until those arrive grab a glass of lovely fresh and crisp Chenin Blanc and enjoy another great South African vintage!”
Here is a round-up of the harvest by a few of our South African producers:
Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay
2017 was cooler than the previous vintage, with a just a few very hot days in January, before harvest came into full swing by mid-February. Hemel-en-Aarde Valley was blessed with rains at the right time, followed by the drying influence of the famous ‘Cape Doctor’, which kept grapes healthy and free of disease. These excellent conditions led to an ideal crop size come harvest.
For viticulturist and winemaker Jean-Claude (JC) Martin, favourable weather conditions during the 2017 harvest resulted in grapes with “optimal concentration, high natural acidity and perfect phenolic ripeness.”
Quality was high this year, with good aromatics and fruit purity on the whites. Journey’s End are particularly excited about the potential of this year’s Chardonnay. The reds also turned out well, with great fruit concentration, deep colour and delicate, powdery tannins.
Low rainfall was a challenge throughout the Western Cape, as it has been for the past few years, but this did mean that fungal disease was in the minority, resulting in healthy and disease-free grapes.
2017 has been one of the best vintages at Steenberg in recent years, with quality comparable to that of 2009.
The summer average temperature was 0.4 degrees cooler than the long term average, with very dry conditions during the ripening period, resulting in beautifully ripe grapes that could be left on the vine until they were just ready.
Despite an unexpected heatwave in December, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes were healthy and surprisingly ‘textbook’ in their analysis. They showed great natural acidity, bright flavours and a good pH - the foundation of a ‘rock star’ vintage, as they put it.
Dry, windy conditions resulted in healthy vines with relatively small bunches of smaller berries with great flavour intensity. Crop yields were as expected, with some areas producing 10% more than their estimates.
Watch the latest harvest video from Graham Beck here: