19 Feb Harvest 2018 | A Cellar Tour with our Team
Last week, the winemakers invited our office team to come for a cellar tour and explore all the happenings during the busy time that is harvest. In South Africa, harvest happens during the summer time, typically between late January and mid-March, depending on a whole flurry of factors. At Fairview, our winemaking team started harvest in January, and are almost halfway. Stephanie Wiid, one of our talented winemakers, showed the team around recently.
The team started at the grape ‘drop off’ point, where our cellar team selects the best quality fruit to be de-stemmed and crushed. This all has to happen rather speedily after picking so that the grapes don’t rot or start fermenting in their skins. Someone asks: “How do wine growers decide when to pick the grapes?”.
Stephanie answers: “In essence – it’s all about striking the right balance between science and intuition. While most harvests in a region tend to happen within the same general time frame, there will be differences depending on the particular grape varietal and how long it takes to ripen, as well as the kind of wine one wishes to create.”
Next, the team bumbles along to see the press, where we get to try freshly pressed Grenache juice. Still fresh, the Grenache juice is still quite frothy and sweet, as it still needs to undergo fermentation, during which time the sugar in the grapes will turn into alcohol.
Finally, we stop by the fermenting Pinotage in our large wooden fourdres. At this point, we are almost half way through the harvest and have finished most of the white grapes (Sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc, Grenache blanc etc) as well as the Pinotage. Stephanie explains:
“It has been a very challenging harvest so far, the grapes have ripened 14 days later than ‘normal’ and we have done our best to manage uneven ripening by doing multiple pickings in some of the blocks. The drought has resulted in a much smaller crop, particularly in our dryland vineyards in Darling and the Swartland. But we are very positive about the quality – the first Pinotage which has been pressed has intense colour and flavour”.
Our team huddled around the open vat, smelt the freshly-fermenting grapes, and couldn’t agree more – 2018 looks to be another exceptional harvest.