South Africa 2007: Keep
Challenging season producing wines with great colour and aroma intensity, big, complex structures and the potential for opulence. Rhône styles show great finesse.
A fine start to the season: a cold winter put the vines into proper, restful dormancy while a cool, wet spring with soft, soaking rains replenished ground water reserves nicely. Budbreak was strong and even, and there was good cluster formation, with smallish berries.
All change, though, with a sudden surge in temperatures late January. The mini heatwave threatened acid balance in earlier-ripening Merlot and Pinot Noir in particular, though burning was largely avoided by careful canopy management. Cooler coastal regions and vineyards on deeper soils were largely unaffected.
Ripening was precocious by 10 to 14 days, with the harvest finishing end of March. Merlot, Pinotage and Pinot Noir were picked hastily before cooler weather slowed the pace, while later-ripening Shiraz and Cabernet revelled in the extra hang time cooling February rains and more moderate temperatures afforded. Yields were a smidgeon down on 2006’s plentiful harvest.
Cooler, fresher weather later in the season benefited later-ripening, thicker-skinned Shiraz and Cabernet in particular. After January’s heatwave it slowed down ripening and concentrated flavours while allowing growers to pick at just the right moment. Colour and fruit concentration are impressive, and the best wines are full, complex, even opulent.
The heatwave barely touched cooler coastal regions like Walker Bay, Elgin, Cape Point and Constantia, and Shiraz and Cabernet have notably good tannic structure. Pinotage and Pinot Noir performed well, showing finesse, balance and expressive flavours.
Further west in Darling, Pinotage is promising, both as rosé and red, and Shiraz from Swartland is likely to stand out for its spicy, peppery character. Paarl had one of its best-ever growing seasons, with the cool conditions resulting in good natural acidity. Expect fresh, elegant wines from this region.
Not sufficiently tasted as yet (Cabernets in particular) put best examples so far include Allee Bleue (Western Cape); Spice Route, Fairview, Sadie Family Vineyards (Swartland); Boekenhoutskloof, Goats do Roam (Coastal Region); La Motte, La
Vigne (Frankschhoek); Lazanou (Wellington); Hamilton Russell (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley); Bouchard Finlayson, Southern Right (Walker Bay); De Grendel (Durbanville); Raats Family (Stellenbosch).