A welcome respite in rainfall
Following over five years of drought conditions across the Cape, winter 2020 provided some much-needed respite. The long-awaited rains arrived in late May and continued well through until the end of September, offering rainfall comparable to the long-term average of around 700mm for the Stellenbosch region.
Spring only blossomed in October, with additional late rains filling up the soil profiles and resulting in vigorous growth from the vineyards. It was clearly visible that the wetter season and extra fertigation helped the vines recover from five difficult seasons.
Cool and windy conditions continued well into the new year, with January to March 2021 enjoying colder than average temperatures. Thankfully for the grapes, the nights were mostly cool. In fact, throughout the whole harvest period, daytime temperatures remained moderate, albeit for a spike in January and February of 2-3 days of temperatures in the mid-30s.
The only period of concern was when a significant cold front arrived in the Cape in the first week of March - a crucial period in the season for our top red and white grapes. Rot started to appear in some of Spier’s vineyards due to this unseasonal rainfall. However, thanks to diligent viticultural management, this was promptly overcome.
A textbook harvest
If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that Mother Nature is always in charge. With this year’s harvest season once again falling in the middle of a global pandemic and a ban on local alcohol sales, one might say that perhaps there was cause for panic in the vineyards. Luckily, that wasn’t the case for the Spier team, who have taken heed from Mother Nature as their teacher and learned to prepare effectively.
Before harvest, the decision was made to increase machine harvesting to almost 70% of production. This helped decrease the number of people needed in the vineyards as a health and safety precaution. It also helped improve the overall quality of the grapes, which were brought in during the early morning and remained cooler as a result.
Harvest 2021 enjoyed a quiet start, with the picking of the first white grapes commencing at the end of January - two weeks later than usual. The first red grapes were only received at the end of February. This slow and steady intake was great news for the cellar team. Thanks to no heatwaves, a long hang time and optimal ripening conditions, they avoided the typical harvest bottleneck and relished the luxury of waiting until each vineyard reached optimal picking conditions.
The last white wine grapes came into the cellar on 20 March and the red and dessert wine grapes in the first week of April. The standout white wines of the season are Sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc and Chardonnay grapes, which have ripened beautifully, displaying great flavour and complexity. The red grapes from all areas ripened slowly, boasting vibrant fruit and soft, accessible tannins.
In closing: A stand-out vintage
Thanks to the unwavering dedication of our producers and favourable weather conditions, the 2021 harvest will stand out as a quality vintage, resulting in some of the best wines ever produced by Spier.