Challenging 2010 harvest brimming with concentrated fruit

Date posted:
March 26, 2010

Uneven ripening and smaller yields have made the 2010 harvest particularly challenging, but strong winds and ideal cold, wet winter and spring months have delivered smaller crops of exceptional fruit and colour intensity for most varietals, especially sauvignon blanc and cabernet Sauvignon.


A harvest of quality not quantity is the general consensus of the members of the Cape Winemakers Guild who represent cellars throughout the Cape’s major wine growing regions.


Conditions were generally ideal for optimal long, slow ripening and small berries with outstanding fruit concentration and good levels of natural acidity, but stop-start ripening during harvest time kept winemakers on their toes with constant tasting in the vineyards to ensure that the grapes were picked at the perfect time. Strong winds, particularly during the flowering season, took their toll in terms of crop sizes and most members have seen lower yields of between 15 and 35%, with the exception of new guild member Pierre Wahl of Rijk’s Private Cellar in Tulbagh who reports an increase of 15%!


Hardest hit by wind were Kevin Arnold who lost 60% of his sauvignon blanc and chardonnay crops at Waterford, Beyers Truter who lost 50% of his pinotage bush vines at Beyerskloof and new guild member Andries Burger who lost 50% of his gewürztraminer at Paul Cluver. It has also been one of the smallest crops in 29 years for Cape Winemakers Guild Chairman, Johan Malan of Simonsig.


Despite some substantial losses in the Stellenbosch area, the exceptional quality of the smaller, more concentrated berries more than makes up for the lower yields. Red wines, especially cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, are looking particularly exciting, while sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and chenin blanc are all expected to be stand-out whites.


In Franschhoek, Marc Kent is backing cabernet franc as the varietal that shows most promise because of its most even set in a very uneven year. Red wines look promising in the Paarl area where pinotage is showing deep colour and ample ripe berry fruit, and malbec has good fruit, structure and a big middle palate, according to new guild member Frans Smit of Spier.


Robertson has produced some brilliant quality with fresh fruity chardonnay and pinot noir and concentrated, complex sauvignon blancs, according to Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck.


Sauvignon blanc, semillon and merlot look particularly good in the Durbanville area with excellent flavour profiles and optimal ripeness as a result of the long ripening periods. For Bernhard Veller this was the earliest and slowest start to the harvest in Nitida’s history, taking in just 10% of his entire production in the first three weeks.                                                                   


In the Swartland the mild season bodes well, particularly for chenin blanc and shiraz.


The cool season has been ideal for excellent sauvignon blanc in the coastal areas of Steenberg and Walker Bay, while Groot Constantia and Cape Point also expect good quality semillon this year. New guild member Boela Gerber is particularly pleased with his pinotage and considers it some of the best he has seen at Groot Constantia.


In the Botriver area, Niels Verburg experienced the driest harvest on record and one of the most uneven ripening years. In Elgin, good colour and flavour concentrations can be expected from pinot noir and gewürztraminer owing to the small berries and small yields, but sauvignon blanc, riesling and chardonnay are also expected to perform well.


The Calitzdorp region experienced more even ripening and has high hopes for touriga naçional, shiraz and viognier this year. 


Exceptional wines, crafted exclusively for the prestigious Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction by members of the guild, will go under the hammer on Saturday, 2 October 2010, at the Spier Conference Centre near Stellenbosch. For further information, visit or call 021 852 0408.



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