The wine industry at the moment is full of excitement and cellars are a buzz with activity. February to April in the Western Cape is full of activities. As you drive along the wine routes you will see harvesters in the vineyards, tractors on the side of the road transporting the grapes from vineyard to cellar. This is the most crucial step in the wine-making process when the grapes are harvested and turned into wine.
Most vineyards will start with the white grape and then slowly move over to the red. Depending on the winemaker or cellar master they will harvest their grapes at different stages of maturity, all depending on the type of style he is wanting to achieve.
Wine grapes are picked early in the morning when they are cool. The grapes will either be harvested by machinery or hand picked. They are then put in lug-boxes or bins, which is then transported to the cellar or the crushing pad. This is the process where grapes are de-stemmed, lightly crushed and juice is formed.
Grape juice sample is taken and the sugar content is measured. This process in wine-making terms is called “Degrees Balling”. The natural fruit acid is also measured.
Alcohol fermentation must occur in order to transform the grape juice to wine. This process normally takes until all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. For white wine this process normally takes between 10 to 14 days and red wine takes about 5 – 7 days. The ideal temperature of the must is between 4.4ºC to 32.2ºC, anything below or above will stop the fermentation process.
How do winemakers know when the grapes have reached their full potential for harvest?
Grapes will be plump because of the sugar content. The grape will be easily to pull off from the cluster. The stem of the grapes will also be brown.
Ripeness of the grapes are sweet and juicy. There should be no hint of bitterness in the flesh or the seeds. Winemakers will look for a specific flavour profile to shine through. For example a Chardonnay will have flavour characteristics of either apple, melon, citrus or butterscotch. If the grape is ready it will have some of these characteristics. The grape seed will be easily chewable and the colour will be brown.
Red grapes will naturally go from green to red as they ripen. All depending on the weather conditions, winemakers are very patient as this can take weeks before true ripeness will set in.
The most easiest way to tell if the grapes are ready for harvest, if the birds are having a feast. You know the grapes are ready!
The effects of the drought and 2018 harvest season
Low dam levels and insufficient water resources is one of the major contributing factors to a huge decline in the 2018 harvest. According to Vinpro the 2018 harvest may just be the smallest in more than 10 years. We are looking at a 50% decline.
SAWIS (South African Wine and Information Systems) is predicting a smaller harvest than last year and it looks like the smallest harvest yield since 2005. The drought conditions that has hit the wine-making regions for the 3rd consecutive year has had a major negative impact on this years harvest. This has also resulted the Winelands being declared a disaster area.
Most of the industries irrigation dams are between 30% to 40% full. Water resources had to be cut between 40% to 60%, many of the vineyards could not meet the vines water requirements.
To add to the smaller harvest yield is that the Orangeriver, Breedekloof, Worcester and Robertson wine regions was badly damaged in September and October due to frost. This has caused a major crop loss.
As the drought prevails and smaller harvest yield for this season, it has also impacted employment opportunities as this has created a loss of employment. This in turn has a knock on effect and negatively impacts the socio-economic prosperity of the wine industry commodities.
South Africa is not the only wine producing country that is struggling with a smaller harvest this year. France, Italy, Spain and California are to expecting a much smaller yield due to natural phenomena. Adding to this a greater demand for wine this will lead a shortage of wine. Don’t be alarmed, you will not see the shelves empty overnight, but as the demand increases we will see the wine industry compete for higher prices.
Not all is doom and gloom! Despite a smaller yield in grapes, the vines are in really good condition. Thanks to some good rain that was received during October and November and some cooler weather in November has prevented any noteworthy pests and fungus to occur.
South Africa is the 9th largest wine producing country in the world and contributes to 4% to global production. South Africa exports about 440 million litres of wine per year and local markets sells about 400 million litres a year.
Alvi’s Drift Summer Delight of White and Blends Tasting.
29 March 4pm, Tops at Spar, 67 Rosmead Ave, Cape Town.
EASTER EGG HUNT for the KIDS!
Dates: Friday & Saturday, 30 & 31 March 2018.
Enjoy a fun and special day with your KIDS at Leipzig Country House & Winery. Play areas, tortoise sanctuary, Tortoise Train rides.
The Parents can enjoy a wine tasting @ The Winery while the kids go on a Tortoise Train ride through the vineyards on the Farm.
Cost: Tractor Ride: R15 p/kiddie
Easter Egg Hunt for Kiddies: R15 p/kiddie
Wine Tasting: R35 p/p (2 white wines & 2 red wines)
Cheese & Charcuterie Platters available @ R105.00 for 2 adults (Includes freshly baked bread and a garden salad) Please book in advance to avoid disappointment: email@example.com | Tel: 023 347 8422
The annual Nuy Valley Feast, hosted by Nuy Wine Cellar, Willow Creek Olive Estate, Conradie Family Vineyards and Leipzig Country House is taking place on Saturday 19 May 2018.
A vineyard trail run (Conradie Penhill 7 and 14km), wine tastings, olive oil tastings, tractor and wagon rides, live music, fun activities for children… and much more.
Come and enjoy live music by well-known artists, top quality wine- and olive products and a farm and craft market!
Tickets are R90.00 (visit website www.nuyvalleyfeast.co.za)
(One ticket for all 4 venues)
(Includes a wine glass)
Ages 12 - 17 - R30 (no glass)
Free entrance for children under 12
Visit Nuy Valley Feast’s website for all the details on events and entertainment at each of the venues as well as accommodation options & shuttle services. www.nuyvalleyfeast.co.za
Look out for the Worcester Olive Wine Route at this years South African Cheese Festival. The award-winning SA Cheese Festival, is the biggest outdoor culinary event, which takes place over three days from Friday, 27 April (Freedom Day) to Sunday, 29 April 2018 at Sandringham, home of the #SACheeseFest. Entertainment includes outstanding music, presentations by celebrity chefs and artisan cheese makers, as well as fun activities for kids and teens such as a cheese carving competition.
Tickets are available at Computicket at R180 per person per day. Senior citizens pay R120 and children from 2 to 13 years pay R20. No tickets will be sold at the gates. The festival times are from 10:00 to 18:00 daily. Sandringham is located next to the N1, Stellenbosch turn-off (exit 39), between Cape Town and Paarl.