The Stellenbosch wine region experienced a cool and dry growing season during the 2022-2023 harvest. This presented both advantages and challenges for the vineyards in the region. Similar to The Swartland and Paarl, Stellenbosch also faced significant disease pressure, particularly from powdery mildew late into the harvest.
The early varieties in Stellenbosch (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Pinotage), however, showed excellent development and promising potential. The cool and dry conditions during the growing season provided ideal circumstances for these early-ripening grapes, allowing them to mature gradually and develop desirable flavours and aromas.
However, the harvest period brought unexpected challenges for the late-ripening varieties, such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, particularly along the Helderberg region. Rains during the harvest made it especially challenging for these grapes, as the moisture can lead to dilution of flavours and potentially affect the overall quality of the wine produced from these varieties, and rot started to pose a big threat to the harvest!
Despite these challenges, vineyard managers and winemakers worked diligently to navigate the conditions and mitigate their impact on the harvest. Strategic canopy management, effective disease control measures, and careful vineyard monitoring were employed to address the disease pressure and minimize its impact on the grape quality.
The winemakers also had to make crucial decisions during the harvest period, assessing the conditions and determining the optimal time to pick the grapes to capture the best possible flavour and balance. Harvesting the late-ripening varieties at the right moment became crucial to preserve their distinct characteristics and ensure a high-quality final product, and for this, the winemakers needed to have nerves of steel!
On a more personal level, this year saw the harvest of the Syrah on the hill at Weltvreden (I have documented this in previous blog posts) and what a privilege to share that day with our excellent team! A big shout out to Bennie Booysen and his team! It was great to have Thomas Fayolle from the Rhône here with us too! And then to Pieter Walser and his Blankbottle team a big thanks for making the wine and caring for every berry!
There are two more projects like this that I am so excited about! Steep slopes planted to Syrah, trained Echalas in the Polkadraai Hills for Duncan Savage, and steep slopes planted to Syrah, trained Echalas in the Helderberg at Taaibosch. Keep an eye out for these wines in the next 5 years