The 2017 wine grape harvest has kicked off and with drought conditions in the Winelands and extreme veld fires across the Cape province, one almost feel guilty when walking through the lush green vineyards.
Water is life, but too much moisture is not good for the vine. It results in shallow roots, excess canopy growth, watery berries that do not ripen properly and ultimately a lack of complexity in the wine.
Some stress and struggle is supposed to be good for the vine. The stressed-out vines produce smaller berries with more concentrated sugar and complex flavor.
“Dry years are good because it forces the vine to find water on its own and really penetrate deeply into the soils. You want to stress out a vine to a point. You want to go as far as you can before you go off that cliff and can’t go any further,” said Napa’s Michael Honig. (read more)
What would be the effect of the exceptionally dry conditions building up to the 2017 South African harvest?
VinPro’s Francois Viljoen shared some of his insights at the annual VinPro day. The 2016 winter was late and it was short – for the second year running. The cold units were not enough, rainfall figures were down 40% on the long term and dams used for supplementary irrigation are not close to the level where they need to be. Spring stayed dry and was slightly cooler than normal resulting in uneven budding and flowering, as well as millerandage. While summer’s hot and windy conditions prevent disease, they demand more water and the drought is turning out to be the most significant factor in the 2017 vintage. Vineyards are still surviving but a proper cold and wet 2017 winter is of the essence. Smaller berries can also have an effect on volumes.
What does this mean for the quality of the 2017 vintage?
It is not all doom and gloom – on the contrary. When it comes to quality, we have very good expectations from 2017. With healthy vineyards, less chemicals are required and general growth is in better balance. Smaller berries also result in better colour and fruit intensity and the 2017 wines should be good.
While we are all watching the skies for some relief for our gardens, it seems that we should not have to be too worried about our wine!
Interested in what effect the field fires can have on close-by vineyards? Read here.