This year is expected to be a great vintage not only for reds, but also for Chardonnay and Chenin blanc wines, according to Distell.
Commenting on the 2014 harvest, group GM for grape and wine supply, Erhard Wolf, said it had been one of the best vintages experienced by the company in recent years. "Measured in terms of our ability to bring in grapes at optimal sugar levels with well-balanced ripeness, this vintage stands out for exceptional quality."
He also confirmed that Distell's yields were 11% up on last year, compared with the industry average of 5% higher for comparable wine-growing areas. "Although as a whole, the South African grape wine harvest is expected to be about 2% down on last year."
Callie van Niekerk, who heads the winemaking teams said the harvest had delivered excellent colour for reds and outstanding flavour all round, with excellent fruit sugar and acid balance.
Drikus Heyns, chief viticulturist said a cold winter with good rains had resulted in well-conditioned vines. Bud break had been pretty even, while a cooler January, with maximum temperatures at least 1°C lower than average, and a cooler March had helped to slow ripening.
"The cooler January meant the harvest began between 10 to 14 days later than usual," said Heyns, "but we were very fortunate in that by the time of the March rains, about 80% to 85% of our grapes had been picked, so fruit was largely unaffected by the difficult weather at that point."
Rainfall levels were amongst the highest over the past five to seven years and had substantially reduced the need for irrigation during ripening, he added.
He said that by following an open canopy management approach for enhanced light and air penetration, it had been possible to achieve a favourable micro-climate around grape bunches to promote optimal ripening.
|Callie van Niekerk|
Van Niekerk said the practice had resulted in outstanding quality crops. "We are again spoilt for choice with excellent fruit sourced from across the Cape."
Wolf said the company had invested extensively in researching ways to achieve optimal ripeness and to streamline grape intake and was now successfully implementing its findings.
"The role of our viticultural team is to prepare the vineyards to deliver the best possible results given the prevailing vintage conditions, while ensuring the best possible management of water resources and then to allow for optimal handling of the fruit by improving planning and processes for delivery.
"Improved yields, matched by an ongoing rise in quality, means we have the very best fruit at our disposal this year."