This vintage kicked off with hot and humid days and kept the viticulturists on their toes everyday. November saw flooding, with thunder showers and humid conditions. The winds that are a usual occurrence on the farm in November, and one that keeps the mildews in check, only started up in December. This meant a high disease pressure and a season that would see more work and effort in the vineyard then previous years.
Hot and windy days in December, reduced humidity levels with resulting reduction in mildew in the vineyards and we were very lucky that the pressure on the vineyard was quite low, thanks to our viticulturist, Peter Davison, and his vineyard team. The better the vineyard and its management, the better the grapes andthe better the wines. All the vineyards flowered nicely with good fruit set, and with hot and sunny days the perfect conditions were perfect for young ripening grapes.
Just after new Years we saw the first signs of veraison in the Pinot Noir block, planted in 2008 and now going into its 4th, fruit-baring vintage. Still considered young vines, I did see a definite change in the vineyards and more so in the eventual wines made, maturing in barrel currently.
Veraison is a French term for when a grape will start to turn colour, from green to translucent, if Sauvignon Blanc, or purple if Shiraz. The Pinot Noir is the first variety on the farm to turn colour and the Chardonnay follows a week or so later. Two weeks after the Chardonnay the Sauvignon Blanc starts and the last one to go through veraisonis the Syrah, a week or so after the Sauvignon Blanc. Complete veraison, when the whole bunch has turned colour, can take from one to three weeks. After veraison is complete it will be yet another 40 days or so before harvest will begin, but that all depends on the style of the wine the winemaker is working towards.
2014 Harvest kicked off for us on 13th February, picking the Pinot Noir first. We picked over 3 days to ensure optimum ripeness for our style of wine. For the past 4 vintages we have been processing our fruit in Grabouw at Almenkerk. So once the fruit is picked we transport the grapes to the cellar. Because we have to transport the fruit to the winery it is very important to only harvest the best fruit, and a great deal of care is taken during harvest to ensure any and all rotten berries or green berries are removed. This also ensures that the bad fruit doesn’t travel with the good fruit and makes the work at the winery far easier, making the second sorting to eliminate any remaining bad fruit very straightforward.
2014 was our biggest vintage yet, which saw us harvest and vinify just over 70 tons of grapes. Our production includes a range of 5 wines, Pinot noir, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Unoaked Chardonnay. Our last day of picking was on the 14th of March, making our vintage just a month long and finishing quite early. The reason for this is that our varieties planted on the farm are all early to middle season ripening varieties.
The 2014 vintage of wines are truly, to my eyes, our best yet. The vineyards are showing real maturity and gaining balance every year. The Pinot Noir, in barrel currently, is showing promising red and black currents and cherries, hints of forest floor and showing more terroir character than vintages past.
The Sauvignon Blanc is a delight to the senses. It holds true to the style of Seven Springs and rewards you with aromas of natural vegetation (fynbos) and green apple. It has been spending the past months on the lees, in stainless steel tank, and is destined to be bottled in the coming months. So too is the Unoaked Chardonnay, made in a similar style to our Sauvignon Blanc, however the variety shows different aromatics and palate to its sister. The Unoaked Chardonnay is lighter in alcohol, at 12.5%, and a fresh wine with aromas of limes and orange blossoms.
The Chardonnay, which spends 11 months in used, 300L barrels is quite different from the Unoaked version. Fermented naturally in barrel and left on the lees, but stirred every two weeks for the first few months, to bring about the desired creamy palate. This Chardonnay isn’t the usual style of wooded white, it remains fresh and vibrant, with the oak offering a fuller and richer palate but definitely not overwhelming the natural fruit of the variety.
The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir spend a few more months in barrel, maturing and will be bottled in January of next year, before the start of the new vintage.
The final wine, the Syrah, was harvested, to my delight, with no heat wave breaking, but actually just ahead of a cold front, that would drench the valley again. The first portion of the Syrah was picked on the 12th of March and the remainder, the two clones SH9C and SH21K, were picked on the 14th of March. The clones mentioned in the latter have a more spicy and smoky profile than the grapes harvested on the 12th and as such were fermented separately and with 100% of the stems added back into the fermentation tank.
Adding the stems back into to the fermenting grapes is not a common practice, but it is a well known one. Only stems that have lignified (gone yellow) are added back and these were carefully picked out of the stems coming out of the crusher. A tedious job, but one that is definitely worth it, when it aids in the colour and structure of the wine.
The Syrah is still very young, but shows a lot of promise as this was truly the year I was most happy with the grapes. I have been fortunate to grow as a winemaker with these vines. I’ve had the opportunity to see them mature from 2.5 year old vines to now, at 7 years, and to see the wonders they offer, now and in the future.
Spring is in the air and the Pinot and Chardonnay has already budded, so the game is on, and harvest is but 5 months off.