Rietvallei Estate Harvesting Vineyards that are Hot and Dry, but Healthy

Like many wineries throughout the Western Cape, Rietvallei Estate in Robertson is singing from the same hymn-sheet when it comes to commenting on the 2015 harvest. This means hot and dry conditions, with grapes being picked about 10 days earlier than the average.

“While the first half of this summer was relatively mild and temperate, January has seen temperatures above the 30ºC mark exacerbating the dry conditions that we have experienced since August last year,” says Kobus Burger, proprietor and cellar master of Rietvallei Estate. Like many farms in the vicinity, Rietvallei’s harvest began earlier than average, with the first grape hitting the cellar on the 20th of January.

Kobus burger Rietvallei Estate Harvesting Vineyards that are Hot and Dry, but Healthy

Kobus Burger from Rietvallei

“This is really early,” says Kobus, “but if the sugar levels are correct and the fruit is properly ripened throughout, you have no choice but to get stuck in. We started off with Sauvignon Blanc, and the fact that we begin harvesting at 02:00 means the afternoon heat is avoided and no hot fruit ends up in the cellar. The vines are healthy, the grapes are tasting great although on the Sauvignon Blancs the acids are fairly brisk.”

Kobus attributes the early harvest to the warm conditions the Robertson Wine Valley experienced in August. “August is a crucial month as this is when flowering starts, the first step in the cycle culminating in the picking of the ripe grape. The warm conditions boosted the whole cycle, bringing everything forward, hence the early harvest.”

Although his vines did not receive any spring or summer rainfall worth mentioning, Rietvallei has a judicious irrigation programme managing the provision of water in tandem with the vines’ requirements to produce fruit of balanced and optimal ripeness.

“What is also characteristic about this growing season is the amount of wind we had,” says Kobus. “Yes, the wind does dry out the soils. But on the other hand it fans the vineyards, keeping them cool, and the breeze also kept diseases away. We have had to do minimal spraying,” he says.

The Rietvallei harvest will concentrate on Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc before moving onto the reds and Muscats.

“Yes, this is a time of working around the clock and little sleep,” says Kobus. “But the energy and enthusiasm among the teams in the cellar and vineyards are contagious, and really inspires one through each waking hour – of which there are many! There is nothing like watching your grapes come into the winery and seeing, tasting and smelling them on the journey towards becoming wine. It is the greatest drink on earth, therefore the best place to be right now is in the wine cellar.”