Cold Fronts Get Backsberg’s Vineyards Back on Track


Top image: Talitha Venter, viticulturist at Backsberg Estate Cellars

Wild and wet weather brought normality to the vineyards of Backsberg Estate Cellars in Paarl. Since Wednesday 7 June more than 60 gorgeous millimetres of rain have fallen on the Estate situated on the Paarl-side of the Simonsberg, and according to Backsberg viticulturist Talitha Venter, these conditions gave the vines the message that things were back to normal – at last.

“A few weeks ago, the erratic climate conditions were causing great confusion among the plants,” says Talitha. “The dry conditions the Western Cape had experienced was headline news around the world, and for the vines the lack of any talk of winter was causing them to wonder where they actually were in terms of their seasonal growth cycle. Not being cold enough to go into a deep winter slumber for some seriously needed rest and recuperation, the sunshine and mild weather was causing some of the shoots to break out again when they should be hibernating.”

Since that stormy Wednesday last week, a collective sigh of relief has fallen over Backsberg. With 60mm of rain and cold conditions made frostier still by the snow-covered mountains, winter has finally arrived.

“The vines have now got the message – winter is here,” says Talitha. “It has been cold: 7°C in the mornings. The soils are building up reserve moisture nicely and the plants settling down to what they should be doing this time of year, and that is nothing but remaining dormant. The leaves that are still clinging to some of the plants will drop over the next few days, and we should begin our usual pruning regime towards the end of June. With wet weather expected, this could be a longer pruning season than normal.”

Talitha says that weather predictions for the rest of the winter are varied. “There are predictions of a wet June and July, while other forecasts name August and September as the wettest months. Personally I would prefer the rain and cold at this stage so that the vines can get their hibernation in as quickly as possible. The long, warm summer really drained them of their energy, and it is now time to go to bed and think about waking in spring, well-revived and nourished. But as a viticulturist you never know what to expect, we just have to be prepared for anything – like our vines.”