Bright, beautiful but short. That’s Niël Groenewald’s take on harvest 2020 at Nederburg. The winery’s MD says this year’s picking season, a full fortnight shorter than average, called for careful choreography by the vineyard and cellar teams to maintain a smooth intake and vinification of fruit.
“There was a stop-start rhythm to January with a few early grape deliveries, followed in most areas by a two-week wait for optimal ripeness. By the beginning of February though, the steadily escalating pace of fruit coming into the cellars was keeping us firmly on our toes. With the picking window narrowing like that, we absolutely had to be in sync with each other. It really helped to work with such consummate professionals.
“We are also very grateful to the authorities for their go-ahead to complete the harvest during the start of the 21-day lockdown period. Fortunately, all fruit has made it safely and timeously into the cellar. Now our skeleton staff are following the necessary safety and health protocols to the letter to minimise risk all round, and of course to ensure the continued well-being of every member of the team. At this stage, we are busy with the last of the ferments, as well as the racking and returning of mostly reds to barrels because, obviously the vintage isn’t quite over just because the fruit has been picked.”
Groenewald believes the pressure imposed by the vintage has been rewarded by healthy, well-balanced fruit, showing concentrated flavours and lively acidity, and amongst the reds, deep, dense colours. “The Cabernet Sauvignon this year is exceptional. Rich, black fruit, with not even a hint of any greenness, beautiful body and fine, powdery tannins. The Sauvignon Blanc is showing its tropical best while the Chenin Blanc is just remarkable – so resilient and such a clear evocation of the vintage. It reads like a story book of the season with its ripe yellow and orange fruit characters, lifted by zesty lime, thanks to a relatively cool start to the long ripening season, the fairly cool nights during the peak of ripening, and then sufficient moisture in the soils to weather the few short heat spikes.”
Groenewald confirms that the cellar team is vinifying a portion of the Chenin in clay amphorae for added freshness and to enhance mouthfeel. This wine will find its way into the Heritage Heroes series.
He adds that morning mists burned off by autumn sun later in March proved a boon for the formation of noble rot, an important feature in some of Nederburg’s renowned dessert wines.
“We really have no complaints. For the most part, we saw even budding and fruit set across our vineyards with protracted but even ripening which is exactly what you want. Rains came at the right time and the winds, although at times fairly ferocious, kept disease at bay and cooled down vineyard temperatures.”
The harvest was completed by the end of March, with yields averaging nine tons per hectare, an improvement on 2019.
“Bunches may have been a little bigger but certainly berry size was very favourable with good skin to fruit ratio. After a few rough years of drought and all the demands that necessitated in managing its impact even after the initial rains, I think we can say this vintage has been kinder to us. And I reckon we can look forward to some delicious 2020 wines.”