Harvest, Fires and Fynbos
The world weather is indeed out of control – or so it seems! Floods in the north of England, drought in Southern Africa, blizzards on the East coast of the USA with balmy December temperatures, all totally beyond predictable expectation. Climate change it seems is here and a force to be reckoned with.
Here in The Cape Winelands of South Africa we have experienced one of the hottest harvest periods on record. Add to that, the driest year in 22 and you have a truly unique vintage. Searing heat 35/38 Celsius and very little precipitation simply wreaks havoc on vines, especially pregnant vines carrying their fruit to the final stages of ripeness!
Smaller berries, good for fruit concentration; lower yields, bad for net income; and rising sugars against slow phenolic development, ensure an “interesting” harvest…….Choices will be made, many of them compromises “to salvage the best” the wine produced will be way less, probably 30/40% down and the quality could be wonderful due to the extreme concentration of the fruit and the tiny berries. A true test and solid affirmation that nature is firmly out of our control, the best that we can hope for on this wild ride, is to somehow remain in the saddle and deal with the consequence of weather.
To add to the complexity, many vineyards (especially those planted on the mountain sides) have invaded what used to be natural fynbos (a hugely diverse collective category of indigenous grasses, flowers and herbs). One of the particular aspects of fynbos is that, in order to reseed and regenerate, it requires fire approx every 10 years, a recurring cycle of renewal. However, where vineyard plantings abut the indigenous fynbos, this obviously becomes a serious problem and, fanned by the prevailing summer Southern winds, a fire started by spontaneous combustion or a shard of glass or, worse still, by an errant cigarette butt can very quickly get way out of control and even aerial water bombing and extensive firefighting teams on the ground face huge risks and have only marginal success rates.
Clearly, we need to consider better isolation of the vineyards, effective firebreaks and perhaps reticulation of water at strategic points (fire hydrants on the mountain).
The fires are here to stay and we need to manage this situation with the aid and support of local government. The old adage of an ounce of prevention rings true!
The FMC 2013 is a hand selected Chenin Blanc, primarily from low yielding, old bush vines (planted in 1974). The grapes are harvested at full maturity and, due to repetitive harvesting, some botrytis is always present. This wine is rich, layered with dried apricot, vanilla and honey. The most recent awards include:
International Wine & Spirits Competition 2015 – Gold Outstanding and Chenin Blanc Trophy
Nedbank Green Wine Awards – Bloggers’ Choice Winner IPW Platter’s 2016 – 4½ stars
Vivino – Nr. 6 overall wine on Top 50 White Wines of 2015 and Nr. 3 Top 50 Under $50 Wines list
I have continued to feature The Forrester Vineyards as it is remarkable the way they continue to receive awards for their wines which we drink when in South Africa, but are also available over here. The problem of fires was all too evident when we were near Franschoek in January this year when whole mountainsides were engulfed in flames and we thought we might have to evacuate the Babylonstoren wine estate where we were staying. The upper slopes of one vineyard within view went up in flames.
Please visit www.kenforresterwines.com