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Harvest 2015: South Africa winemakers excited by quality

Hopes are rising that South Africa’s 2015 harvest could be one of the best in recent memory, with many winemakers reporting ideal conditions.

Old vine reserve Chenin Blanc grapes are picked at Ken Forrester Wines in Stellenbosch. Image: Ken Forrester Wines

Vineyard owners and grape pickers in several areas have faced an intense month, after harvest arrived early at a number of estates. ‘It’s been bruising,’ said Thorne & Daughters, a Western Cape winery set up in 2012.

But, early signs suggest the wine harvest pain may yield a strong vintage. A blog by trade body Wines of South Africa said the early growing season, low rainfall in many areas and strong variation between day and night temperatures have helped growers to achieve well balanced ripeness.

‘It’s hard to generalise, but this is looking like the most exceptional harvest of my career,’ said Ken Forrester, of his namesake winery in Stellenbosch and around two thirds of the way through the 2015 harvest. ‘Some of the older guys are comparing it to 1974.’

He told Decanter.com, ‘The fruit has low pH levels, beautiful acid and it’s clean. It’s almost too good to be true.’ He said his region saw the coolest February on record.

However, he added that quantity is expected to be down for some varieties. One of growers’ biggest challenges was to remain patient amid the good conditions, he added. ‘One might be inclined to bring in the grapes too hastily.’

Klein Constantia winemaker Matt Day told Wines of South Africa (WOSA) that he was particularly excited by Sauvignon Blanc for the 2015 harvest. To the south east, WOSA blogger Angela Lloyd also reported good conditions for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

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Written by Chris Mercer

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