Bang on target, De Wetshof Estate in Robertson will begin harvesting grapes for the 2018 vintage in the week of 15 January.

According to De Wetshof CEO Johann de Wet a slightly lower-yielding harvest than average is expected due to the dry conditions experienced in the Cape winelands over the past four years, but the ripening grapes are showing signs of excellent quality.

“In the past year Robertson has received less than half the average annual rain-fall of 300mm, and although we have not been as affected as regions on the West Coast, water-management has played a crucial role in the build-up to this year’s harvest,” says De Wet.

“Judicious application of drip-irrigation had to be done, and fortunately the high clay content of De Wetshof’s soils helped massively due to their water-retention ability. Once the water got down deep to where the roots are, the soils remained moist and cool allowing the plant to go through the processes of bud-break, berry-set, veraison and overall ripening.”

Despite one or two intensely hot days in December 2017, a feature of the ripening season has been the relatively mild conditions. “This helped enormously in the dry environment, and the cool nights and temperate days definitely contributed to quality we are seeing in the young grapes,” he says. “The southerly winds from the Indian Ocean also played their part, as they usually do this time of the year, and a daily breeze through the vineyards kept diseases away, resulting in plants currently being in excellent health.”

Walking through the vineyards prior to the harvest De Wet says he noticed the bunches bore berries slightly smaller and lighter than usual. “But they are juicy, with firm acidity and fabulous sugars rising by the day,” he says.

De Wetshof harvests 200ha of vineyards, 70% of which are Chardonnay.

“We will begin with the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for our Cap Classique sparkling wines, as these grapes need to be picked at higher acids and lower sugars than still wines,” says De Wet. “And then the Chardonnay starts where 70% of our grapes are harvested in under three weeks. It sounds intimidating, but as is the case each year, we can’t wait to get going.”