With two of our 2009 La Motte red wines currently performing very well and with my count of 25 of the 2012 Top 100 wines in SA being from the 2009 vintages, I reflected on why this year was so special in South Africa.
With our industry celebrating 350 years of winemaking in 2009, it was quite fitting to not only be an exceptional harvest, but also a quality vintage in the bottle. Looking at the wider wine industry, I realised that 2009 was also an outstanding year in France. And I wondered how would the requirements for a quality harvest differ in these two countries?
In France, conditions in the various wine-growing regions are more similar than in the diverse landscape of South Africa. According to dailyfinance.com, the 2009 vintage had great conditions: “For starters, a severe winter killed off unwelcome bugs. Spring was rainy, helping to produce a big crop. And summer met the ideal Goldilocks criteria for grape growing – not too hot, not too cold – and was dry to boot, the paper says.”
The En Primeur tasting in France, 6 months after vintage is a very good indication of quality, with the size of the vintage and Parker’s ratings definitely influencing the quality perception as well as pricing of the wine.
It is difficult to generalise what conditions are required for a good South African vintage because of the exceptional diversity and big differences between wine growing areas. But winemakers generally joke that if the December summer holidays do not offer good beach weather, one can expect a great time in the cellar.
Enough cold units and enough water are basic requirements and if the season is free of those 3-day-long hot spells with temperatures above 35 degrees and strong south-easterly winds, conditions are promising. With the 85 to 105 days between flowering and picking offering moderate to even cool weather in 2009, the indications were for a quality vintage.
We use grapes from various regions and in 2009 the quality was good regardless of the origin. The ripening period was cool and the yield naturally low, resulting in the offering of a range of quality 2009 wines from South Africa.