Dear fellow Laibach enthusiast, with the last few tanks slowly finishing their natural malolactic fermentation it is time to look back on vintage 2016. Just when we were shocked with the early start to the 2015 vintage Nature just decided to through us another curve ball. It is official now and I can safely say that 2016 was our earliest vintage ever. Not just for starting the harvest but also finishing the harvest already in the first week of March. We also had a re run of the 2000 vintage with huge fires destroying thousands of hectares of “fynbos” and some of our unfortunate neighbours vineyards. We likely escaped.

We had a very dry winter spell with not even half the long term annual Stellenbosch rainfall. As we stand at the moment the whole Western Cape has still some drought conditions with the average dam levels at only 34%. We need rain soon. Having very dry condition off course also helps our organic farming and we can report that the Vineyards had very little threat of mildews that can cause havoc to our crops and our viticultural team’s blood pressure. So we at least had a very good set after flowering with the absence of the dreaded “Cape Doctor” or predominant summer wind the south –easter sparing our beloved vineyards.

We expected a small crop and although it looked like some vineyards were bearing lots of fruit the size of the berries and the weight of the bunches were down a lot. Harvest started already on the 15th of January with some Pinotage for our very popular MCC Ladybird Organic Rosé Sparkling. We continued with no real stop that we usually expect in the middle of February and therefore the last Cabernet Sauvignon grapes came into the cellar already on the 6th of March. In the cellar we had no real rushed time and with being 20% down on crop size we had no real space problem. So the cellar team also had a fairly enjoyable relaxed harvest. Analysis of the grapes looked good and they were very healthy.

Ripening time was a bit shorter than expected and we did find that acidity levels in some of our wines, especially the reds are a bit higher than normal. Alcohol levels were also a bit lower than previously which is great for our specific house style. The stand out grape for the vintage on the white side was definitely Chenin Blanc. Lookout for a reserve Chenin Blanc fermented in old barrels and concrete eggs in the future. On the reds Merlot again for us was the most successful grape with good enough yields and very good quality. Pinotage was also very good although crops were down a bit.

Usually from experience the vintages after a dry and warm winter never are that exciting. Remember 2004, 208 and 2014 but this year at the moment is looking rather good. The berries were very small so we needed to adopt to that and I must say the wines in general look much better than expected. In difficult vintages the good soils and terroir will always stand out and deliver and I think with our organic practices of the last 17 years our soils are now alive and well and therefore gave as a nice welcoming reward.

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