As the first 2019 wine is being bottled, I think it is a good time to look back at vintage 2019. Like you all know the Western Cape area had a severe drought the last three years with low winter rainfall in the wine growing areas. So much so that the 2018 vintage was a very small vintage but quality was quite exciting for some wines. We had a very good winter of 2018 before the harvest although some very hot days in the middle of winter which had an effect on the budding of some cultivars. Also much of the rain came quite late and therefore the plants still had continuous stress of ripening the vintage 2018. This indirectly had an effect I think on harvest 2019.
We had in general healthy growing conditions and only some late morning mist did enhance the possibility of mildew in our higher lying Chenin Blanc vineyards. Very big winds in flowering had a much bigger effect this year than in other years and especially Chardonnay suffered. Merlot yields were also down quite a bit with very small berries and bunches.
We started picking first week in February which is normal for us. We started with Pinotage, Sauvignon and some young Chenin Blanc for Sur Lie. Weather was good but sugar levels in the reds were much slower to develop than previous years. We had very cold nights in February and March which usually helps with colour and flavour developments but this year was different. We had a two to three week period where almost nothing happened in the vineyards except some berries starting to shrivel even if the conditions were perfect for ripening. It was like a holiday for the grapes and they just stop. No color or flavour or any sugar developments happened. It was very, very strange. Usually we struggle with too much sugar , too quick ripening and too high alcohol levels. This year it was too little sugar, too little ripening and too low alcohols which is very strange. We finish harvest around the 20th of March which is a bit later than the last few years. With lower alcohols we had to change our whole way of thinking and eventually it was an adventure.
The stand out wines of the harvest were Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Petit Verdot, Malbec and the young Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards also produced very good results. In my opinion at this stage whites are showing better than reds but with malolactic still busy it is difficult to judge. Maybe the reds will still come to the party. In general I think we will see a classic old style Stellenbosch vintage where blending will be used to add complexity and age worthiness to the wines.