We had a chat with our cellar master/winemaker/viticulturist, Magnus Kriel about this year’s harvest season:
This year’s harvest season started earlier compared to other years. What is the main reason for this and do you think it will have an effect on the 2015 vintages?
Normally a lighter yield is the main reason for earlier harvests, but this year it is probably a combination of weather related factors which caused earlier budding, flowering and eventually 14 – 18 days earlier harvesting.
We had quite a strange weather pattern at the end of last year, with very hot temperatures for a few days, and rain the next. What effect did this have on the vines?
It all worked together creating earlier ripening of the grapes. We had efficient water supply for irrigation so the vines was under no stress at any time, creating optimal conditions for high quality grapes. The rain was also too early to cause significant botrytis infections on the grapes.
How does this year’s harvest totals compare to those of 2014?
Some of our major white varieties is down by almost 20% while others were more or less the same. Reds was the same a 2014 with almost no exceptions throughout the cultivar spectrum. Our total crop is about 3.5% up from 2014, mainly due to new plantings.
How does the white and red tonnages differ from last year?
2014’s composition was about 37% red and 63% white. This year is about 41% red and 59% white
Do you only pick grapes during daytime or at night as well? If so, why and what is the effect?
We pick about 85% of our crop by machine and do this mainly by night. There is a significant difference between night and day time temperatures during February/March and it is always better, quality-wise, to get grapes in as cold as possible. It also helps the winery’s cooling plant cope better, with less heat exchange necessary.
Apart from the power cuts, what other factor was a major concern for you during this year’s harvest?
We are a little short on white wine fermentation space, but we will address this issue hopefully this year, otherwise in 2016.
Were there any new cultivars harvested this year? If so, how did they perform and are you excited about the outcome?
We picked some Durif (Petit Sirah) and some Ugni blanc for the first time. The Ugni is blended with some Colombar because the volume was too small to keep separate, but we are quite excited about the Durif!
Any new cultivars on the horizon for bottling?
Maybe some Pinot Gris, but we will make a final decision a bit later this year on the wines’ performance at comparative tastings.
What do you plan on changing in preparation for next year’s harvest?
Nothing major, all our new 2015 additions performed as expected and even better in some cases. We will concentrate on managing current resources as best as possible.
What is your overall experience of the 2015 harvest and your predictions for the 2016 harvest?
2015 from a wine-making point of view, was probably the best in 15 years’ time! The healthy grapes made the whole process smooth and effortless. The average quality of the wine is also about a 50% improvement on 2014. I expected a bit more from the top quality wines, but it is still early days – the wines need a bit more time to develop than in 2014. Overall we look back on a fantastic harvest season at Merwida, with many highlights and after action satisfaction! It is too early to give comments on 2016’s harvest but one thing I can say is that it would be very tough to improve on 2015.
With that great news, we are even more excited for the 2015 vintages! Look out for our Cuveé Brut and 2015 Pinotage Rosé which will be bottled soon!