…and there are weeks where decades happen

Whilst reading up on my Russian history this month (in an attempt to make some sense of Putin’s Ukrainian misadventure), I came across the following quote by Vladimir Lenin: “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”.

 

In 2011, I was privileged to do a vertical tasting of a Bordeaux chateau that spanned from 1929 through to the 2009 vintage. It was one of the most exciting tastings I have experienced, as it illustrated perfectly how wines could age beautifully. For me, the main takeaway was the ability of something we consume to take my mind back in history to 1929: the end of the Roaring 20’s, and the year the stock market crashed, sowing the seeds of the Great Depression. It made me realise that wine is a (living) time capsule that transcends geographies – and even generations.

 

Arriving back on the farm in late February for our Harvest 2022 (our 16th harvest!), the thought struck me that over the coming weeks (particularly as we harvest our red grapes) we were in the zone of ‘weeks where decades could happen’! Most of the wines from this vintage will be enjoyed in the next few years; however, some will be put away and aged, possibly forgotten in someone’s cellar, and opened decades down the line. I wonder what events from 2022 will be recalled by those drinking it then?

 

This year’s growing season has been an unusual one. The spring was generally cool, with moderate rains and a few unfriendly windy patches. As we moved into the new year, summer hit with a vengeance as we experienced several heat spikes through January and February. Our valley is generally cooler, but that did not stop the temperatures from climbing into the high 30s on several occasions. Thankfully, cooler evenings allowed the vines to recover quickly. Our soils’ good moisture retention kept the vines adequately hydrated, even with almost no rain falling during the last two months. The acids on most varietals were also lower than usual; however, fruit quality was generally outstanding. I have tasted some of the juice in early fermentation at the time of writing, and I am pretty excited!

 

Last year, I mentioned that we had embarked on what we are calling Generation 3: the planting of the third generation of vineyards on Oldenburg. The reason behind Generation 3 is to combat leaf roll virus. While the situation is an opportunity to improve our vineyards by learning from the past, it also presents us with the problem of missing multiple vineyard blocks. Our counter-measure is to find similarly situated vineyards (with comparative soils, aspects and altitude/temperature as our own), and buy in the grapes. With Nic and Christo on the case, I feel comfortable that we are locating some exciting alternatives, and managing to provide the growers with additional expertise that will allow them to meet our stringent high-quality needs. We will, however, continue to only produce our Rondekop wines from grapes sourced from Rondekop itself.

 

Walking through our vineyards, it is easy to see that Christo has already made a significant impact. The header photo is from our Cabernet block, and shows the fruit looking spectacular. The idea is to expose the bunches to just enough sunshine to ripen the pyrazines, creating perfect fruit expression and remove any ‘greenness’ in the wines. Seeing the level of precision in their interventions with each vine, it is clear he has taken the team and their ability to execute to the next level. Nic cannot wait to get the grapes into the cellar to add his magic, but patience now is imperative. I have no doubts that the two of them will time the harvest of the red varietals to perfection.

 

Corné (our Logistics Manager) and her right-hand man Andrew have had the busiest two months ever in the warehouse. Not only have they had to cope with a few  bottling runs, but happily, our wine orders have been running very hot. Over the last year, the world’s logistics and supply chains have been thrown into chaos, and it is up to Corné to sort out how best to get pallets on the (now very confused) shipping timetable. It may be the very end of the wine process for us, but no shipping = no joy! Well done both for making it happen!

 

It’s an exciting time of year. Even though there is considerable sleep deprivation, harvest brings out the best in everyone. It is always great to see everyone working together and pitching in to get the myriad of time-sensitive jobs done – and done correctly. I believe that over the past year, we have worked harder and smarter than ever, and I am sure we will be rewarded with something quite exciting in the future – whether that be in a year or two or several decades down the road – both are excellent outcomes.

 

As they say in the wine business – Patience is Mandatory!

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