The first grapes to be picked were Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Stellenbosch for Spier’s Signature Methodé Cap Classique. Pinot Gris, the first still wine varietal to be harvested, came next, on Friday.
Due to searing temperatures earlier this week, harvesting only resumed again today: Pinot Noir in Stellenbosch and Chardonnay in Wellington, with Sauvignon Blanc in Durbanville to follow. Picking of red varietals will begin towards the end of next week.
“This is the warmest and driest summer in recent history, making it our most challenging harvest yet,” says Frans Smit, Spier’s cellar master. This follows a very hot and dry 2014/15 summer, and low rainfall this winter.
In the vineyards, temperatures have been soaring to the middle and upper thirties. From 34° Celsius upwards, a vine stops accumulating sugar: it effectively goes into self-preservation mode. This means the grapes being picked have a lower sugar content than usual.
“These climate conditions means there will be a smaller yield this year, but hearteningly they also have ensured that the harvest has been disease-free.”
The vines have smaller bunches and smaller berries, meaning wines of this vintage will likely feature stronger tannins, increasing their ageing potential.