2016 Harvest: Experience, Foresight, Balance

In diversity lies strength, never has it been better demonstrated than in this harvest.

Our vineyard holdings spread across 4 diverse viticultural areas, of which close to 50% are dryland-farmed (unirrigated). These dryland vineyards are situated on the Darling hills overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and in the Swartland, just south of Malmesbury.

Farming our own vineyards in these dryland areas for almost 20 harvests has given us a clear understanding of the explicit correlation between winter rainfall and crop size. The soil is a sponge, soaking up all the winter rain which will sustain the vines over the dry summer; This past winter delivered less than half of the average rainfall across all areas, requiring early measures of crop control to ensure quality. Our Darling vineyards were thinned out to approximately 4 tons a hectare (25 hl/hectare) and in the Swartland we guided the vines to an average of 2 tons a hectare (12 hl/hectare).

At Fairview farm in Paarl, we fortunately have drip-irrigation which off-set the drop to only 20% less fruit than our average yield. We expect a similar impact for our vineyard in Stellenbosch.

With every dark cloud – although I have not seen one for a while – comes a silver lining. The small berries possess impressive concentration and surprisingly good freshness (low pH) and the first ferments show immense potential. This should be even more exciting with our late-ripening varieties like Tannat, Tempranillo and Mourvèdre.

Nature has provided a vintage for the hard-working viticulturalist and the laid-back winemaker; Boasting brilliant balance and complexity with minimal intervention is required in the cellar. It would have been extremely difficult to survive a vintage like this without the full control of our vineyards; it enabled us to make the right decisions for quality early in the season, knowing that exigent measures in the dryland vineyards would be off-set by vineyards supported by irrigation.

2016 will produce approximately two thirds of the expected volume. There will not be enough wine for everybody, but it will be exceptional!

Preparing for the 2014 Harvest

Harvest 2014 is upon us, and an excited Donald Mouton – Fairview Vineyard Manager  – shares his thoughts and predictions on this year’s harvest.

“Last year saw above average rainfall in the area. The average rainfall over the past 17 years has been 550ml, and last winter saw a particularly high reading of 680ml.  Although heavy showers in October affected pollination of the late cultivars, the overall crop is looking very good.

There seems to be a higher yield of Merlot and Cabernet, especially on the Stellenbosch farm.  The whites, as usual, should produce good yields in 2014.

Despite the high pressure of the late rains, disease-control has been well implemented and the vineyards are looking very good.  The fungicides and pesticides we have been using are all environmentally-friendly and include the likes of natural predators such as ladybirds,” he shares.

Winemaker Anthony De Jager also spares a moment to detail the current goings-on in the winery.

“We are currently getting ready to hand-pick the first grapes of the season – whole bunch-pressed Viognier for the Fairview Brut – early tomorrow morning.  We will then be taking in some early Pinotage for the La Capra Pinotage Rosé next week. Right now we are preparing the cellar for harvest – washing tanks, training harvest interns and the like. We also have teams out sampling all the vineyards,” he says.

We will be catching up with Donald and Anthony again soon for a detailed harvest report.

                                          The team ready for Harvest 2014




Dryland bushvines? So what?

Amongst all of those typical wine words that tend to get thrown around, you often hear references to trellised vines vs bushvines and talk about un-irrigated vineyards. It is fairly straightforward to understand what these terms mean, but what relevance do they actually have to the wine at the end of the day?

Here’s a quick, simple look at The Beacon Shiraz, one of our premium single vineyard wines, which provides a bit of insight into an aspect of why this is important. Read More

Mosbolletjie season!

One of the great added benefits of harvest time on the farm is the mid-morning ritual of warm, freshly baked mosbolletjies.

Mosbolletjie is an Afrikaans name for a small bread made using the newly fermenting grape juice, or must. This delicious little bread has a hint of sweetness and a hint of spiciness and is great with a good cup of coffee.

The Goatshed bakery makes mosbolletjies throughout the harvest, using the fresh must from the Fairview cellar. They use the must from various different grapes and have found that Shiraz and Pinotage give a particularly tasty character. This is why these guys are sometimes bright purple inside!

The Goatshed’s mosbolletjies are available in the Fairview tasting room, but usually sell out before lunch! So call ahead if you would like to get your hands on some!

How about giving these a try yourself? Here’s a link to the Goatshed’s recipe.

Fairview harvest update

With a couple of weeks left of harvest 2010, and rather strange thunderstorm conditions outside, Fairview winemaker Anthony de Jager gave me his thoughts on the harvest to date.

anthony-de-jagerAs I mentioned in one of the videos that we did prior to the harvest, we had a really good ripening period and lead up to the harvest. The end of January and beginning of February was also cool and moderate, so the grapes had plenty of time for steady ripening.

The harvest started very smoothly and we began to bring grapes in during the last week of January. This year we decided to make a conscious effort to try and bring grapes in a little earlier, as we are very aware of the alcohol levels in South African wines, and the pressure to bring them down to reasonable levels. A concerted effort in the vineyard meant that the earlier grapes were showing good phenolic ripeness at harvest, with sugars at around 22 degrees balling. Read More

Punting Pinotage

The ABSA Top Ten Pinotage is one of the most highly regarded local competitions in South Africa and one which we enter each year, with Pinotage being an important variety within our portfolio. The latest results (2008) saw Fairview Primo Pinotage 2007 announced as one of the Top 10. ABSA do a lot to promote Pinotage and their efforts are to be applauded. As a part of this, we yesterday hosted a group of media and invited ABSA guests for a tasting and discussion about Fairview followed by a lunch at our Goatshed restaurant. Charles hosted the group and took the opportunity to highlight the flexibility and opportunity presented by Pinotage as well as some other interesting varieties that we have been working on. We also opened a bottle of 1975 Fairview Pinotage which showed very well, still showing good acidity and soft tannins, with enough fleshy fruit flavours to provide balance. But I’m hoping to put together a tasting of old wines in the coming months, so we can chat more about that then. Read More

Gearing up for 2009 harvest

Well, I have just returned from a few weeks of leave (the first time that I have been off at this time of year for quite while) so would like to officially wish our readers all the best for 2009. Although there are some obvious challenges around at the moment, we always appreciate your support and are looking forward to a positive and productive year ahead. Read More