|2002 Harvest main page|
Despite up-and-down weather throughout the growing season in South Africa's premier wine region, Stellenbosch, as well as in nearby areas, most of the country's winemakers remain optimistic about the 2002 harvest. Conditions varied depending on location; some estates reported good quality across the board, and others complained of significant crop losses that contributed to a smaller-than-average harvest overall.
"Only the winemakers with enough gray hair to show could remember a similar vintage," commented Johan Malan, winemaker for Simonsig, on the challenging year.
Rain played a big part early on. "We had the wettest winter recorded for the last 50 years, and higher rainfall than usual [from] October [through] January," noted Bruwer Raats, winemaker for Delaire.
But dry, moderate weather prevailed at the end of January, and lasted through February, allowing for the early-ripening Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc grapes to be harvested in good condition.
Then at the end of February, a heat wave, which lasted for about four weeks, stressed the grapes that ripen in midseason, such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. With ground moisture still high from the wet winter, mildew and rot became concerns for winemakers.
Luckily, mild weather returned at the end of March, and the late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon was able to recover. Some growers claimed that the extra hang time allowed the acidity to rebound and produce fine grapes.
Since the Stellenbosch region has numerous microclimates, the final results differed from estate to estate. Raats said his Cabernet Sauvignon "turned out to be very good."
Mike Dobrovic, winemaker for Mulderbosch, pointed out that despite the fact that rot significantly reduced crop yields, slower ripening resulted in higher acids and more complex flavors in the grapes. "Only about once in 10 years do we get this type of complexity," he said.
In contrast, Jean Engelbrecht, the outspoken owner of Rust en Vrede, said the uneven ripening season, which cost him 25 percent of his crop, meant that "naturally the quality will be adversely affected." Englebrecht prefers the 2000 and 2001 wines, respectively, over the 2002 vintage.
In wine regions farther away from Stellenbosch, the weather was more uniform. Vernon Davis, managing director for KWV, which draws on vineyards around the country, confirmed that the season was uneven in Stellenbosch, but noted that "good crops were harvested in all the other regions, especially the Orange River district." In these outlying areas, the common heat waves that can pose problems at the end of the harvest season did not occur in 2002.
The good-size crops in these other areas compensated for the reduced yields in Stellenbosch and Paarl, and the country's total wine production for the year was estimated at about 808 million liters, compared to 742.8 million liters in 2001, according to figures from South Africa Wine Industry and Information Systems.
Read the 2001 harvest report:
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