You are currently viewing the International Edition. You can also switch to the Hong Kong Edition.
Sunday 5 July 2015

South Africa reviews ‘stressful’ 2014 vintage

30th May, 2014 by Gabriel Stone

South Africa’s 2014 wines are “really going to sort the sheep from the goats”, according to producers who acknowledged one of the most difficult growing seasons in their careers.

Stellenbosch“From start to finish there were challenges,” remarked Gavin Patterson, winemaker and director at Sumaridge Wines in Walker Bay. “It was the smallest vintage in my 10 years here and the most stressful.”

His comments were echoed by Johan Joubert, chief winemaker at Kleine Zalze, who described 2014 as “the most challenging vintage I have ever experienced.”

Recalling three rain spells in October, November and January across the producer’s vineyards in Stellenbosch, Durbanville and Darling, Joubert reported: “Bunches were getting bigger in volume so you had to find a way to manage the vineyard to get enough concentration.” In particular, he pointed to the effect on Kleine Zalze’s bush vine Chenin Blanc, commenting: “Bunches that are normally 80-90g were up to 160g in volume.”

In addition to the effect on concentration, the heavy rain meant that many producers struggled to manage their vineyards with the level of precision they would have liked, with spraying timetables especially affected. “We couldn’t get into the vineyard,” recalled Patterson. “The crop was compromised from the start.”

As the growing season progressed, he told the drinks business: “I found myself looking for a silver lining to a very black cloud.” With Sumaridge producing just a single tier of wines, there was no opportunity to downgrade fruit, which ended up being discarded altogether. “I said to our investors that this is a year of sacrifice,” said Patterson.

For Joubert, the solution lay in adapting his usual approach in both the vineyard and winery. When it came to choosing the right moment to pick, he explained: “We went into the vineyards and tasted grapes in a morning sunshine site and an afternoon site. The afternoon site with the riper fruit was better so the decision was to let it hang a bit longer.”

As for the vinification, Joubert insisted: “In 2014 people must have more lees content.” Noting that “acidity levels in 2014 were lower,” he confirmed that he had also chosen to add more tartaric acid than usual.

Despite this challenging bigger picture, Patterson identified a number of more positive stories from South Africa in 2014. “The earlier ripening varieties like Chardonnay, Pinotage and Merlot all produced absolutely beautiful wines,” he reported, explaining: “Those cool, European conditions gave us a long hang time.”

By contrast he pointed to difficulties with Sauvignon Blanc, whose tight bunches struggled with disease and ripeness, requiring rigorous sorting in both the vineyard and winery.

Although Sumaridge’s Syrah also faced maturation challenges, thanks to the maritime conditions that usually provide a valuable cooling influence but exacerbated the effect of this unusually cool year, Patterson described himself as “particularly excited” by the final results.

“We have tiny quantities but lots of tea, iron and cinnamon spice flavours when usually it’s more black cherries and plumminess,” he observed. Pointing to Sumaridge’s Shiraz/Pinotage Cape blend, Patterson enthused: “It means our Epitome will be reflective of vintage as well as its component parts.”

Patterson also noted that warmer regions such as Swartland enjoyed more favourable weather conditions. “For them it was a year of abundance, whereas for us it was a year of sacrifice,” he summed up.

Despite the difficult conditions leading up to the 2014 harvest, Patterson maintained: “We’re not complaining. Europeans often suffer worse conditions and in worse years winemakers start being more selective.”

However, he did acknowledge that 2014 was likely to prove inconsistent in terms of quality from South Africa. “It’s really going to sort the sheep from the goats,” he claimed. “Very sadly many winemakers are driven by accountants at the head of their companies and that will have an effect on how 2014 is judged.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

If that's interesting, how about these?

Oregon producer takes international view

One of Oregon’s youngest wine estates has partnered with Jackson Family Wines more...

Copa América: Malbec vs Carmenère

Saturday sees Chile and Argentina go head-to-head in football’s Copa América more...

Yealands sells majority stake

Yealands Family Wines' owner Peter Yealand has agreed to sell 80% of the more...

Sales Executive - Wines & Spirits Competitions

London, United Kingdom

Competitive

WOSA woos UK indies and on-trade

Wines of South Africa has announced plans for a new UK trade tasting later this more...

Californian wine struggling with supply

There is a "growing mismatch" between supply and demand that is badly hampering more...

Bordeaux 2005: 12 ‘perfect’ wines

Twelve wines have been given “perfect” 100-point ratings in Robert more...

International Business Development Assistant

London, United Kingdom

To be determined, based on the profile and experience of the candidate

Cockburn’s wins the boat race

Cockburn’s has won the 2015 Barcos Rabelos race, featuring the boats that more...

UK vineyards included in tax relief scheme

Winemakers in the UK will be able to benefit from income tax changes for the more...

Accolade's Fish Hoek goes Fairtrade

South Africa's Fish Hoek is to go Fairtrade from the 2015 vintage, becoming more...

Warehouse Supervisor

London, United Kingdom

£27,000-£30,000 depending on experience

Mumm releases Santana sparkler

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana has teamed up with Mumm Napa to release a more...

Q&A: John Barbier, the Colorado cook-vintner

“I have never followed a recipe in my life, I’m a man of instinct”, more...

Bordeaux 2005: Biggest movers

Expectation surrounding the 2005s is building and pushing up prices for top more...

E-commerce, Sales & Marketing Executive

London, United Kingdom

Competitive salary and bonus package based on experience and qualification.

China’s Ningxia region launches wine contest

Select winemakers will have the chance to travel to China to learn from its more...

English fizz attracts new deal

English sparkling wine producer Jenkyn Place has stepped up its ambitions by more...

Mumm releases vintage collection

Champagne Mumm has released a new “Collection du Chef de Caves”, featuring more...

Digital and Communications Executive

£22,000-£26,000 dependent on experience

Top 10 wines in the US press

An impressive Tannat-Merlot-Zinfandel blend from Uruguay and a Vernaccia from more...

Pimm's and English wine sales leap

UK supermarket Waitrose has noted a surge in sales for Pimm's, strawberries and more...

En primeur: beware the heralded vintage?

From an investment point of view is it best to buy the “vintages of the more...

PR Senior Account Manager/Director

London, United Kingdom

Depending on experience

Top 10 wines in the US press

A Texan Albariño, NY Riesling and Californian Syrah are among the wine tips more...

Vinadeis unveils Languedoc 'black diamonds'

One of France’s largest wine producers has launched a high-end Languedoc more...