Vintage 2016: Good, Great, or Indifferent?

I remember talking to Wayne Dutschke, a highly regarded winemaker in Australia’s Barossa Valley, about the practice of ‘rating’ vintages. With a smile, Wayne started with, ‘ We only have great vintages in the Barossa’, before pointing out validly that any overall experience of a vintage is relative to individual decisions made in the growing and vinification process.

Bad wines are made in great vintages. The opposite is also true. When to pick, what not to pick, and what to leave out final blends all play a major role in how the raw product is perceived when it finally makes it to bottle.

Which leads me to vintage 2016 in Stellenbosch. Much has been said and written already, largely referencing the fact that the growing season was the driest in a century. This of course posed its own challenges, but more so for dry land farming where water wasn’t available when needed. Reports of record low yields in such areas are common.

But for those who could apply water judiciously at the right times, the quality of fruit that has been produced in 2016 has been exceptional. Very little disease pressure, clean healthy bunches, good skin to juice ratios. An early vintage to be sure, but phenolic ripeness was achieved at slightly lower than normal alcohols, and at this early stage the quality of what has been harvested and crushed looks to be very good to excellent.

But a great vintage? We will see… you wouldn’t want to generalise now, would you!

I’m currently in Europe at the massive Prowein Fair in Dusseldorf, meeting with existing agents, and potentially some new distributors as well. There is a lot of excitement around South African wine at the moment, and this showed with the number of visitors to the SA pavilion, keen to find out what the buzz was all about.

News of the dual 5 Star awards in the Platter Guide 2016 certainly didn’t hurt our cause. Off later today to London to meet up with our distributor, Lea and Sandeman, and then back to SA to finish off vintage.

One thing to mention is that the 5 Star Haskell Anvil Chardonay 2014 is now SOLD OUT. Stocks of the 5 Star Haskell IV 2010 are also running out, and you will find an opportunity to purchase below if you would like to have a few bottles of this outstanding wine in your cellar for this winter, or the years ahead.

Trust that this finds you well, and with enough Haskell and Dombeya wines in the cellar to get you comfortably through Autumn!