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After the Fires, Back to Harvest

Ken Forrester sees the light at the end of the tunnel for the 2009 South Africa harvest.
2009 Southern Harvest Winemakers
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Posted: Mar 26, 2009 3:38pm ET

By Ken Forrester

Posted by Ken Forrester

Well, we finally got all those fires here in South Africa under control after almost a month of chasing and water-bombing. Our firemen really did a great job against the elements, particularly the winds.

Finally it seems as if the end of the Forrester harvest may just be in sight. We are down to getting off the last of the Merlot, some Shiraz and—Hey, surprise! Maybe we will even harvest Grenache this week! Cabernet is still hanging out there, and as for Mourvèdre, well, that will be long after the Easter weekend, so a good place to have the Easter egg hunt, among the bunches.

There are loads of harvest celebrations and festivals going on, and last night Pinotage specialist Beyers Truter of Beyerskloof hosted a traditional "port stomp." This was great messy fun. Can you imagine 30 folk (all in a serious party mood) barefoot and almost knee-deep in Pinotage and Tinta Roriz grapes, dancing arm in arm in a concrete lagare with a DJ pumping out the vibes! Some party! I have to tell you, everyone was purple from head to toe and, in fact, there were even swimmers. Thankfully, the dinner chimes were rung and the party moved through the tank of fresh water, a thorough rinse and Pinotage burgers were served, great blotting paper indeed. Koos Kombuis, the most famous troubadour of the winelands, then sat down and sang along with his own brand of wonderfully politically incorrect songs. Then back into the grapes. A fine night was had by all, and all around the winelands, similar tales abound as the pressure of harvest gives way to the new ferments.

We have selected the final tanks to make up our Sauvignon Blanc and I have a sneaking suspicion that this 2009 could just be our very best.

The Chenin Blanc ferments, where we rely on natural yeasts in barrels, are all trickling along really slowly and the wines are developing a wonderful richness, with a still great acidity and roundness, so high hopes on that front as well, it really seems that 2009 is going to be an awesome vintage. Many of the South Africa marketing people are heading off to Germany for the weekend to attend the Prowein fair in Düsseldorf, so do make a point of heading along to our South African stand—I will be there as well.

The rugby contest continues unabated with one South African team, The Bulls, riding high in first position, but there’s still lots of rugby ahead, and as I said at the outset, the Australians must be desperate to win something—anything!—so look out!

We expect the very first 2009 wines to be released from the warmer interior regions within the next week or so, and as I say this we have high clouds gathering and the winds starting to threaten from the north, a sure sign that the weather is about to start changing. The mornings are getting darker and darker. In fact, at 6:30 a.m. now it is virtually too dark to pick, quite a contrast from a month ago—sunrise comes almost 40 minutes later than it did 30 days ago. The leaves are turning and the evenings get cool much earlier. It really is wonderful to see nature changing a gear as the seasons move along, and there’s the thought of great winter stews, osso buco, a glass of spicy Shiraz and maybe a fire in the hearth and … well, you finish that off to suit your own particular dreams of comfort.

It surely is a wonderful world, and having the opportunity to in some small way participate in nature’s bounty is truly a great privilege and a deep pleasure.

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