The 2011 winter was similar to that of 2008 where the rainfall started
early July and the cool weather continued well into spring, but with
lower rainfall than in 2010.
We had a below average rainfall in 2011 of just above 400mm. This was still sufficient though to fill our dams. The vines had enough cold units needed for dormancy and this lead to an even budburst.
The early cultivars started with budburst on the 12th of September. The later cold and wet conditions postponed budburst by up to 10 days. Chenin blanc and Pinotage went through budburst at the same time, where Shiraz was 10 days later. Because of occasional downpours, we did not have to do any additional irrigation until after flowering. Cooler conditions prevailed during most of spring 2011. Strong winds during growing season kept the vineyards clean of any fungus infections.
There was a great balance between growth and yield and we did not have to do a lot of crop thinning like we do in certain years. We started to take out leaves already at pea-size, which occurred late November/beginning December, opposed to early to mid November in warmer years. We had a relatively cool December.
The first week in January we had moderate temperatures, but this was followed by 10 very hot days. Before this, it looked like harvest would start at least 7 days later than normal, but this unwelcome heat accelerated the ripening process for especially the later varieties, which lead to a ‘bumper-to-bumper’ ripening of the early and late ripening cultivars.
Eventually night harvesting got under way on the 26th of January with Chenin blanc. Mostly, with February comes more heat. This was’nt the case this year and we had cool (for February) conditions in which the grapes ripened. This lead to even ripening, great colouring and the forming of smooth ripe tannins and exceprional fruit.
2012 was our 2nd shortest harvest at 36 days, after the 2002 harvest of only 28 days. Our average harvest period is 45 days.
Overall the 2012 vintage was an above average one, with lots of ripe fruit. The Chenin Blancs show lots of complexity and rich palates. The 2012 Pinotage and Shiraz shows great depth, fullness and are multi-layered which will make these wines extraordinary food companions.
My prediction is that this will be a well above average vintage.