At Simonsig Estate the Heat is on for the 2015 Harvest

Just over a week after the team at Simonsig Estate began harvesting, the vintage of 2015 is already being talked about as a hot, dry and windy year. Not to mention early.

According to Simonsig Estate cellar master Johan Malan he barely had time to pack away his fishing tackle after the Christmas holidays before the grapes had reached the prerequisite levels of ripeness and called to be picked.

“As a winery with a large production of Cap Classique, Simonsig always kicks off early as the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay must be brought in at lower sugar levels than for still wine in order to maintain the acidity,” says Johan. “But this year we were about 10 days earlier than the average – at the middle of January it was already full-steam ahead for the cellar team.”

Johan ascribes the premature harvest to the warm conditions that prevailed in the winelands during the flowering season in August, as well as much lower rainfall than average.

johan malan At Simonsig Estate the Heat is on for the 2015 Harvest

Johan Malan from Simonsig Estate.

The warm conditions in August kicked the vine’s growing season off with a bang, resulting in a snowball effect moving all the stages in the cycles forward,” says Johan. “And from August on, rain was unusually scarce: during the 2014 growing season from August to December Simonsig’s vineyards had around one-third of the rainfall we experienced during the 2013 season,” says Johan.

“As a result we have had to employ judicious watering programmes on the farm as you really have to manage the vine’s access to water during the growing season. Too much suppresses phenolic ripeness while too little causes undue stress in the plant.”

One thing about a dry, hot season is that the conditions keep vineyard diseases at bay. “The vines are extraordinarily healthy,” says Johan. “Not just because of the dry, hot weather but also because to date 2015 has been a very windy year which does not give the pests and critters a chance to get a hold onto the vines.”

Grape quality is looking excellent, with structured fruit brimful with fresh acids and low pH levels. Yields are healthy, but nowhere near the above-average and unexpectedly high volumes of 2014.

“Any wine maker knows to best avoid any prediction before the grapes are in the cellar,” he says. “But if I had to make a wager I am predicting a very good year for red wines on Simonsig. Our red varieties, such as Pinotage, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, tend to perform well under warm conditions. However, it is still a few weeks before they are harvested so I am holding off from further forecasts.

“It is just another great year to be in the Stellenbosch wine industry and to be able to show the world what we are capable of it terms of wine quality.”