Thanks in large part to the delayed arrival of winter rainfall, the 2021 growing and 2022 harvest seasons got off to a later start than usual – but in times like these, what is “usual” anyway?
Our knowledgeable and experienced viticulturist and winemaking team took careful note of evolving conditions, modifying vineyard management and harvest timings to ensure optimal quality. The result is that 2022 is one of the most promising harvests in recent years.
We harvested the first grapes for the sparkling wine base in late January, along with some early ripening Sauvignon blanc and Chenin blanc. In the beginning, harvesting was slow because, despite a series of heatwaves, ripening did not accelerate.
The initial grape sugar levels were not as high as in previous years, and the grapes tended to be phenolically riper at these lower levels. As a result, the first Pinotage from Stellenbosch was harvested late in February, making for a difficult March with the same cultivars from different regions ripening at the same time and putting pressure on fermentation capacity.
We received our last grapes at Spier on the 1st of April. Overall, the 2022 vintage was a slightly bigger crop than 2021 and similar in size to 2020. We are very excited about the quality of the 2022 harvest – which, following drought and temperamental weather patterns, ranks among the best in recent years.
With the aim of expanding our organic range (watch this space!), we sourced new vineyards and grapes producers in Olifants River, Lutzville and Darling areas to complement the grapes from the certified organic vineyards at Spier and the Spier-owned Nooitgedacht farm near Paarl. These wines are showing a lot of potential.
Crops from Spier-owned organic vineyards were slightly higher than 2021, with quality meeting our expectations. New plantings on Nooitgedacht will start producing grapes that will be harvested for the first time in 2023.
The tannic white varieties like Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc show great fruit concentration, character and balanced acidity. Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon delivered fruit quality and concentration as expected, with a more tropical and perfumed fruit profile this year. The heat also contributed some positive effects, like the ripening of pyrazine, leaving a wine with a more tropical palate, balanced with length and persistence.
Our experience is that when Chardonnay shows high quality, Merlot typically does the same – and this year was no exception. This year’s crop was characterised by little berries with a lot of intensity. We could see early on that tannin management would be the determining factor for this harvest, and had to be careful not to extract too much tannin. Due to the small berries, extraction was slightly softer compared to previous years, resulting in concentrated fruit aromas, a broad midpalate and a long smooth finish. Of course, these wines will still benefit from oak maturation, but already they are looking very promising.
Fashionably late: kingly Cabs and sublime Shiraz
The climate was more challenging for the later ripening varietals like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Early indications from the temperature change in late March suggested that conditions would be similar to 2014, and we had to decide between picking earlier or being patient. Our team’s experience and longstanding relationships with our growers and grape sources allowed us to make decisions that benefited the wine quality. Deep colour and rich mouthfeel are the hallmarks of these varietals for this vintage.
The later ripening Pinotage fruit delivered a wine with exceptional balance and phenolic maturity due to the longer hang time on the vines. As a result, you can expect silky, dense and rich Pinotage from this vintage.
Rain, recovery, rewards
With good rainfall in 2021, it is evident that most vineyards have recovered from the recent drought which lasted several years. As a result, the 2022 harvest was larger than the previous 5 to 6 years.
At this point in time, 2022 appears to be a vintage featuring real depth of fruit, great balance and length, culminating in great drinkability early on while also promising a great reward for the more patient connoisseur.