Harvest is a time filled with so many motions, emotions and feelings. It is the time of year which we all work towards and when it is done we can’t believe it is actually over.
A few days before we pick, my stomach usually turns upside down, a few times, with excitement yet many nerves barely hanging on, but as soon as those first grapes gently ‘hit’ the crates, the nervous feelings are long forgotten and we have to run to try and keep up.
2016 ended on a fast pace. After an extremely long and torturing amount of time waiting, we received our liquor license, a few days before Christmas. We wanted to utilize every day we could to receive guests and oh boy, was it a busy last few days of 2016.
The harvest of 2017 approached us a bit slower. We started picking on the 24th of January, a day later than 2016. Our last pickings were the 3rd of March and last pressings 10th of March. It was a slower start than usual, and we had picked the first grapes (Chenin blanc) at 21’Balling. We had cool mornings when we picked and this ensured that the grapes were fresh.
After two days of picking Chenin blanc, the heavens opened up and it rained 53mm on the 27th of January. This was not all bad (since we are in a drought), of course there are risks when it rains during harvest, Mildew, Rot and dilution of concentration, but luckily no signs of that. It actually just gave the vines and soils a little boost. The total rainfall in Malagas was 300mm from April 2016 – March 2017.
We started off, like most years, with the ‘young’ Chenin Blanc blocks. Once they were done we waited a few days and then started with the older Chenin, followed by the Viognier and Roussanne.
The Chenin blancs’ are showing really great acidities this year. The Viognier is tasting slightly ‘reserved’, but it is still early days, and they usually evolve into delicious aromatic wines. The Roussanne is always a tricky one, the name means “rust” and can be very deceiving, the front part of the berry looks rusty and almost ‘burnt’ but the back part is green. We picked it and co-fermented with some Chenin blanc.
With the Reds we started off by making two barrels of rosè. We picked a few cases of Shiraz, crushed it, and left it for 48 hours of Skin contact. Next was Tinta Amarella. A beautiful grape which was planted as Tempranillo, but a few years later the nursery confirmed it to be Tinta Amarella. But what a good ‘accident’ that contributes beautiful aromas to our blend. As beautiful as it may be, it is always a tricky variety to pick. If you do not pick it at exactly the right time, the sugars shoot up and you are left with over ripe grapes. This year we had quite a bit of bird damage. This makes the sorting a big priority and we really focused on getting fresh and clean grapes into the cellar. In the end a very small crop came from the two blocks. A few years ago we got up to 5 tons and this year we got a tiny 1 ton. My thoughts are, the bird damage played a big part but this vineyard is situated on the most wind facing slope and gets quite a beating if there are heavy winds. This year in particular we had heavy winds during bud break and flowering.
Once the Tinta Amarella was done, we went on to the Touriga Nacional. We first picked a few cases to make Rose – crushed the grapes and left it for 48 hours of skin contact and then pressed it.
One section (Block 18/19/20) of the Touriga Nacional we experienced some insect problems during flowering season, resulting in a smaller crop. The rest of the Touriga blocks produced a decent yield. All of the Touriga we picked between 23 and 24’balling, and they are already showing extremely elegant aromas and flavours. Excited to see how they will develop, and how the tannin structure is going to evolve.
Syrah is always a dream to pick here, and really performing well. We picked a few blocks slightly earlier and the highest balling was 23,2’B.
The Cabernet Sauvignon will always be so interesting here. David planted this here just because he could not be here and NOT know what Cab would do here. Well I am very glad he did. The first year I worked with it, it had intense flavours and colour. 2016 I added some wholebunches to the ferment and it just lifted the wine a bit. 2017 we added some wholebunches again and we are hopeful to see what it will develop into.
Mourvedre was last to be picked. This is a cultivar which produces big bunches but this year was exceptional, yet not lacking in flavour or aromas. We made two barrels of Rose from the Mourvedre and the rest into dry red wine.
In the cellar, we ‘exchanged’ our old basket presses for a brand spanking new basket press. Which now requires less muscle, more finger power, and giving us a bit more freedom to play around with whole bunch pressings and hard pressings. This will ensure that we have more elements to add to our wines.
After two long years of waiting and experimenting, we have finished our concrete fermenting tanks – better known as ‘Kuipe’. We have had some trouble with the structure of these fermenters, but our very handy Harry (foreman and cellar hand), fixed them up and we used three of the five this year. We fermented mostly Shiraz in them. In the past, and what we still use for smaller batches of grapes, are the Stainless steel tanks to finish ferments.
Our ferments – We do not add yeast, so depending on how warm the grapes come in the cellar and how active the yeast population is in the cellar, the grapes would start fermenting a day or two after they have been crushed. The whites are crushed, spends a few hours on skins, pressed in to a settling barrel and then racked off the gross lees into 400L or 700L barrels, ready to ferment. Once finished with fermentation they are sulphured up and ages in the barrel till bottling.
The reds typically spend 7-14 days on the skins, after which then they were pressed and moved to barrels, ready to undergo Malolactic fermentation in 225L barrels.
Each year we add a few new barrels to our collection and we take out the oldest ones. We add about 25% new oak to the reds and 10-15% to the White. The red barrels we generally use for the Touriga Nacional and the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Summary of tonnages for three years since cellar has been used:
TONNAGES WHITE GRAPES
TONNAGES RED GRAPES
DATE OF HARVESTING
2017 has really surprised us with the intense quality so far. Regarding tonnages, we have had a bigger yield compared to 2016, but smaller than 2015. Our goal is to produce slightly more, yet keeping the quality, these vines can definitely do it.
The white wines are tasting very promising with amazing acidities. The tannins and intense flavours of the red wines are already very exciting and we think this will be a vintage to keep and age for a few years.
Now we wait, for the last whites to finish fermentation and the reds to slowly start their malolactic fermentation journey.
All of us will be taking a short break before we dive back into nurturing the vines to once again produce phenomenal quality grapes for the harvest of 2018.
Adios from team Sijnn!