Heavy Rains hit Northern Cape Grape Farmers ahead of 2017 Harvest

Newsflash!

For the Lower Orange River wine region, 2017 started with a deluge of rainfall with some areas to th east of Upington experiencing extraordinary overnight showers of up to 150mm. While much of the drought-stricken Northern Cape rejoiced at the rain, these levels of precipitation are not what grape farmers want at the critical fruit-ripening stage.

According to Henning Burger, manager of viticulture services at Orange River Cellars which produces the majority of the Northern Cape’s wine, the rain began shortly after new year. It was heavy, intense and sporadic, mostly concentrated in the easterly regions.

“The Grootdrink wine region, about 75km east of Upington, experienced particularly heavy showers,” he says. “While Upington and the western areas of Keimoes and Kakamas have had some rain, it was the eastern front from Kanoneiland through Grootdrink to Groblershoop that was particularly hard hit, with 24hr figures of up to 160mm in places.”

Despite the intensity of the rainfall, the effect on Orange River Cellars 2017 harvest has been minimal. “Our harvest began this week in Kakamas where the vineyards stayed dry due to slight rain,” he said. “Concerning the waterlogged easterly regions, the wine varieties are still sitting at low sugar levels. If they had been ripe it would have been a major problem for the harvest, but now our farmers just have to manage the threat of downy mildew while the wine grapes ripen in hopefully drier conditions over the next few weeks.”

The major rain damage was in vineyards planted to varieties used for drying to sultanas and raisins which were in the final stage of ripeness or ripe when the rains hit. “From our side in the wine industry we hope not to be in the same boat as these farmers when harvest comes around in a few weeks’ time.”

Summer-wine and the living is Breezy

While there is more than enough action on the South African wine scene in terms of things new, alternative, fresh and different, it is the tried-and-trusted, classical stuff we do best. On the red wine side, this be the royal wine that is Cabernet Sauvignon which has always delivered and will always deliver the finest local reds. And when it comes to white grape varieties, South African Chardonnay is now recognised as the best in the so-called New World with many international critics reckoning the best Chardonnays outside of Burgundy – Ground Zero for this grape – are indeed from our land down south.

Continue reading

Spur, the Taste of Youth and Still the Real Deal

With the end of another year looming, nostalgia floated in the Cape Town air along with whiffs of coconut sunscreen, freshly oiled beards and garlic arm-pit. A breeze-less afternoon, full of soft sun and summer promise, lured me to the aroma and taste of my adolescence – and all others who grew up in the days before sushi bars, noodle-shops, shared tapas plates and organic buckwheat pizza joints. For there was a time when a visit to The Spur was a culinary highlight. And I was curious to see whether a feeling of lost youth could be sparked by that Western interior design and the sweet scent of fried onions as fleet-footed waitresses and waiters scurried about bearing plates piled with burgers and fries and waffles, and all such plain good stuff.

Continue reading

Stellenzicht’s Great White Attack

Despite all this talk of over-supply in a cluttered wine market bursting at the seams with 7 000 labels, there can always be something more. Why so few white Bordeaux blends, for example? Good ones. Sure, many wine-makers broaden their Sauvignon Blanc with a whack of Sémillon. But focussed and harmonious combinations of these two stunning grape  varieties are relatively few and far between.

Continue reading

Le Lude Shows the Greatness that is Champagne

The Russians drank Champagne as death settled in. Okay, that was before the Reds took over a century ago, when the Motherland was still being ruled by stylish Tsars, impeccably dressed warlords and yummy countesses smelling like Beluga caviar and rosé wine. Attending to a dying Russian, the physician would summon a bottle of Champagne and have the patient drink a glass or two in the hope the fizzy liquid would kick-start the ailing heart. Continue reading

Vriesenhof: the Home of Greatness

Everyone needs a bit of yesteryear now and again. And whenever this feeling raises its head, Vriesenhof is my place.

Look, I’m all for progress. And having resided and worked in Stellenbosch for almost four decades I am stunned by the continuous evolution the wine industry has shown. Not only in its incomparable wine quality, but the imagination and initiative wine-farm owners have shown in turning the region into a haven for tourists and other visitors. Gourmet restaurants. Cavernous, shiny venues with gorgeous views offering detailed wine-tastings to rows of eager tour groups. Art collections and play-spaces for kids.

Continue reading

Cap Classiques from the Museum and into the Stratosphere

If I were to throw one cork into the advocating of the brilliance of Cap Classique, it would be this wine’s remarkable ability to age and develop. Of the many examples I have had of late, I’d say an attentive Cap Classique ages far better than a non-vintage Champagne and a lot better than Jane Fonda – but without the plastic face work and lentil-water intestinal flushes.

Continue reading