The 2023 Harvest is done and dusted; we describe it as outstanding. Overall the conditions were favourable going into harvest – cool and dry. The warmer heat spikes never really got too hot and generally lasted three to four days at a time. The pre-harvest conditions led to an earlier harvest by approximately two weeks. However, we had to have our timing on point during March, as several rainy periods needed careful navigation.
Cabernet Sauvignon is always the last to come in, and it is essential to ensure that it is completely ripe, which invariably means one has to run the gauntlet with the weather. In early March – with heavy rain forecast – Nic and Christo cherry-picked a portion in the middle of one of the blocks, where they found a perfect batch of grapes. The rain that followed caused a temporary dip in the flavour concentration as the thirsty vines and their fruit instantly sucked up the moisture. A game of patience ensued to allow the grapes to gradually return to their pre-rain flavour concentration, with just a fraction more ripeness. Time was of the essence with another bout of rain forecast, but we managed to get to the optimal point with only a few hours to spare – and with that, all the grapes were finally in the cellar. The rain could begin to break the vineyard’s thirst and allow some good final pre-winter growth.
Each harvest offers a chance to improve on the last. We learn the exact spots within the vineyards where and when optimal ripeness occurs. This knowledge is hugely important as slight variations can make a big difference to the result. Our cellar has plenty of smaller fermentation tanks and a reasonable amount of spare capacity, which allows us to pick each block, with the primary driver being optimal ripeness, rather than tank capacity.
It is too early to get a feel for the harvest quality yet, as things are either just starting to ferment (most of our red wines), or they’ve just made their way into the barrel (our white wines). However, we know that our level of precision in everything we have done through the growing season, harvest and finally into the barrel is the best it has ever been – the rest should therefore look after itself.
As if harvest isn’t stressful enough, Christo has added to the fun by simultaneously preparing our Riverland blocks for planting this winter. Originally planted with Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, we have now begun to replant the blocks with a much better understanding of what will work best and where. We will be planting two new blocks of bush vine Chenin Blanc, with wide spacing, and these will be farmed without any irrigation. It is a heritage project, as it is doing things as they have been done in the past; however, with the knowledge of this site and how Chenin Blanc can thrive when planted in this manner. Time will tell, but our confidence is high – it will be a while before we have any grapes to vinify. And for that little bit extra, we will plant a few Semillon vines to mix into the blend, as that was also done back in the day. It will be a fun project and, no doubt, something extraordinary when we finally pull the grapes in.
We are planting pecan nut trees in about half the area being replanted, as we have found the soils to be slightly too wet for vines, even with the previously installed underground drainage. Excess moisture is always our enemy in the vineyard, as it drives vigour and lowers quality. Pecans, however, should do well here, so it will be interesting to see the results.
We have now released our 2022 white wines, and from the recent customer feedback in The Tasting Room, we are confident that we have yet another superb vintage in our hands. Whilst harvesting is done, the next phase in the cellar begins. Nic and the team are hard at work taking all the new juice through their paces. Punch-downs and pump-overs are the order of the day. Please see our Point of View segment, where we discuss this in more detail.
Harvest 2023 – it’s a wrap!