Posted by Ken Forrester
Well, it seems like half of the Southern Hemisphere is burning. We have had an ongoing run of bushfires, called veld fires here in South Africa, and just as the firefighters seem to get a fire under control, it flares up again a little further away. The hardest part is that most of this is taking place in the mountains around Stellenbosch, and vineyards like Tokara, Trafford, Morgenster, Vergelegen, as well as many others, have all suffered losses—completely razed vineyards in some cases, and massive damage.
The helicopters are water bombing the high peaks and just trying to finally get a hold on these devastating fires. In the thick of all this we’re still managing to play some rugby and, believe it or not, even picking some grapes.
Here in Stellenbosch we have had a really cool season and most of the vineyards are about two weeks later than last year, with brilliant analysis, great natural acidity and so far, no rush. In fact, we’ve had a couple of days this week to tidy up and get the place all shipshape. Great rugby on the weekend: The Blues really took a bad beating, their second in a row, and currently South Africa is lying 1st and 4th on the log but there’s a lot of rugby still to come in the Super 14.
Most of our Chenin Blanc is now fermenting, with the balance due to come in from now until Monday. We’ve done three selective pickings using our Normalized Difference Vegetation Index technology that was initially part of the Cold War spy technology for hi-resolution photos from satellite. This gives us a digital GPS view of the vineyard at celestial noon, and we then overlay that with a near-infrared filter. From that, we select the areas of vineyard with identical signatures to go and pick grapes that will be the most similar on any one day, hence we avoid the negative effect of averaging down on sugars, acid and fruit quality in general. Great tool for harvesting, and we have really seen the quality improvement in the last three years.
Our Grenache grapes up in the Swartland ward near Wellington, along one of the high valleys in the Paardeberg, are looking good. All the bunches are through veraison and I expect we will be able to harvest in the next 10 to 12 days, before then we will certainly have to get to the Merlot, and perhaps the Cab Franc, so there’s loads of picking left and little chance of it all being done before Easter, or the final of the Super 14. Hopefully the fires will be well under control before then! Until next time.