The 2016 harvest is well underway in the Cape Winelands (KZN will be a bit later, reports Laurie Smorthwaite from Abingdon Estate) and already it’s been a year full of drama!
Some of the drama has been distinctly unwelcome – namely the wildfires which raged first in Elgin and then around the Simonsberg, destroying vineyards belonging to such stellar estates as Thelema, Kanonkop, Rustenberg and Uitkyk.
In addition, the fires destroyed huge areas of managed forest belonging to Delheim and also Niel Joubert Wines – in an era when farmers need to diversify to survive, this is a particularly hard blow and may well result in job losses further down the line.
As if the fires weren’t enough, many of the regions are now feeling the effects of the very dry Winter. The grapes are ripening super-fast in terms of sugars, but the flavours aren’t getting a chance to develop properly before the grapes have to be picked. Add in the fact that yields are down again and we’re looking at a very difficult harvest for many farmers. So a lot of things to worry about.
Is there anything to look forward to? Absolutely! The weak rand is sending incoming tourist numbers (particularly those with dollars and pounds), through the roof and restaurants and cellar doors are reporting record visitors this year.
If you haven’t been out to the winelands recently – perhaps it’s time to go and try some of the new and interesting attractions available. The News24Live team recently went to blend their own wine at Vergenoegd and you can see what went on here.
Other interesting experiences include wine and cupcake pairing at Delheim, bubbles and nougat tasting at JC le Roux, pizza and wine pairing at Mulderbosch and many more exciting and innovative ideas.
For those of you who can’t get to the winelands – you can always bring the winelands to you! We’re running a series of articles helping you set up your own wine tasting group with friends – spitting is almost certainly not allowed! Click here for the first article.
And finally – upcoming trends! I think we’re going to see many more bargains around this year in terms of own-label wines in supermarkets and I’d advise you to take advantage whilst you can because the weak rand is going to make exports more attractive from now on.
Bubblies continue to please and new ones are cropping up all the time – my favourite recently is definitely Le Lude in Franschhoek who are using innovative closures to add interest and complexity to the wines.
Expect to find more sommeliers lurking around your favourite restaurants. No – they’re not there just to sell you expensive wines. The best ones are there to ensure you have a fabulous meal with stellar wines that match the food. Sounds like a good trend to me!