The fruit farmers were the first to spot the signs: possibly the earliest harvest in the history of South African wine. In the past, I normally always bottled my wines in late January. The reason being that I don’t want to keep my white wine barrels empty for too long. But we couldn’t ignore the signs and rescheduled for an early bottling: one early December and another one 5,6 and 8 January. So 2015 ended and 2016 started off with the bottling of 17 new wines. We weren’t early enough though, as on 7 January 2016 (a day before my last bottling day), the earliest harvest ever recorded in South African history kicked off for BLANKbottle with 22.8 balling, ripe, bushvine, dry-land, high-altitude, Wellington Chenin blanc (destined for Moment of Silence).

So we had to bottle outside and press inside the cellar. More parcels from Wellington came in and then, due to the super-drought, Darling grapes started showing signs of ripeness. Way early… Crops were down with about 50% compared to other (normal) years. Some of the larger Darling farmers had dry land sections where they did not even send the pickers in to pick.

During those early pickings I learnt so much. Due to the extreme temperatures and drought, the grapes looked and tasted ripe. But the sugars were way lower than anticipated. So I had to up my game a bit. Where in normal years I could rely a bit more on sugar readings (balling), the only way I could determine if a vineyard was ripe this year, was to look, feel and taste. So I started driving. A lot.

In circumstances like these the grapes start to loose acid early. Now acid is the backbone in wine and extremely important. So we picked in sections. In some instances we would pick the same vineyard up to 3 times, all a week apart. So you pick the early batch for the high acid, and then a week or two later the second and the third batch for flavour. I see the first batch as my insurance policy. I can then take more risk with the other pickings. Wherever a vineyard had no access to water, this was the scenario, irrespective of the area.

This also resulted in the quickest harvest ever. Some days I would pick 5 vineyards in 3 different areas (e.g. Wellington, Darling and Swartland) on the same day. We would rent little Kia trucks in, and then early morning, coffee in hand, we would all head off in different directions. Me, my assistant Julia, my father-in-law or whoever could help.
We are now done with most vineyards and today I am off to Ceres, a vineyard on the Witzenberg mountain which we will be picking within the next two weeks. As things stand now, we’ve taken in 95% of the total harvest. Our intake has gone up from 47 different parcels in 2015 to more than 60 from 58 vineyards (a total increase in production from 50 to 70 tons). I keep all these blocks as separate batches in the cellar, which complicates my life immensely. But adds fun and excitement. I’ve employed another full-time cellar help, Andre, to assist myself, Julia and Spencer (and he is super neat, bringing some balance to the team…)

Thank you for all your patience with me, especially with my slow (and sometimes no) response to emails and phone calls. Lets hope we can taste these delays as positives in the wines to follow…

Telephone: +27 (0)82 872 8658

Please note

Due to the many small batches of wines we make, availability changes on a daily basis. Please email if you’d like to order any of our wines or if you are looking for a specific wine, and she will reply with a list of wines now selling. If the wine you are looking for is sold out, we could suggest some alternative excitement and/or we could also put together a unique selection for you.

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