Early signs are the 2009 vintage is looking good in both the whites and the reds. A cool, long ripening period means whites will show an attractive aromatic profile with crisp acidity. Nick Pentz of Groote Post says: ‘The whites are definitely similar to 2008 and the chemical analysis is the best we have ever seen.’ The reds are a mixed bag with some reporting exceptionally balanced reds and others struggling with high alcohols after a February heatwave.
Bellingham’s viticulturist, Stephan Joubert, describes 2009 as a ‘text book crush, the kind that one wishes for at university; low pH and high natural acidity, with all the red grapes showing ideal tannin ripeness.’ Smoke taint could be an issue for wineries in the Stellenbosch, Helderberg and Jonkershoek areas where fires raged throughout February. Andre Van Rensburg, winemaker at Vergelegen has discarded one-quarter of his 2009 red crop as a precaution against smoke taint.
The 2009 was a strange and short harvest for South African viticulturists – with the latest start and one of the earliest finishes in recent history. After abundant rainfall in the winter (it was the wettest winter for 25 years at Landskroon in Paarl) water tables and dams were full for the growing season ahead. But spring temperatures remained unusually cool and budburst finally arrived three weeks later than normal. The growing season remained cool until the end of February when a heatwave of 37-41C hit most regions including Stellenbosch. By this time most of the whites were in and it accelerated ripening in the reds which all ripened at once.
The 2009 South African wine grape crop reached 1.3m tonnes which represents a fall of 8.4% compared to 2008. Some reported increased production including a record crop for Glen Carlou and at Paul Cluver an unexpectedly big Sauvignon Blanc crop put pressure on cellar capacity. In general, due to the cool spring weather, many had problems at flowering leading to lower crop levels. Others had to deal with flooded vineyards (Bot River) and vineyard fires.