The wine industry in South Africa is undergoing an exciting period of change, both in the vineyard and in our wineries. Our winemakers are experimenting with new varieties of vine, as well as new clones of existing varietals such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Large-scale experimentation with rootstocks is taking place to establish which planting material is particularly suited to conditions in our wine-lands.
Vineyard life in South Africa is similar to Europe’s although South Africa’s viticultural year begins in September. While preparations for the vintage are being made in Europe, the vines in South Africa are just beginning to bud. Once buds have formed, the vines must be kept free from pest, disease and weed, and are often pruned if growth becomes too vigorous.
Flowering normally takes place in November and in December when the young grapes begin to swell and grow. At this stage the vines are often ‘topped’ to improve air circulation around the grapes and thus minimize the risk of fungus or rot. January in the Cape heralds the beginning of summer and, as the temperatures increase, early grape varieties begin to ripen.
The bulk of the harvest takes place in February/March and the sugar/acid ratio of the grapes is checked daily so that each variety is harvested at optimum ripeness. In most South African vineyards harvesting is carried out by hand, although machines are used on some farms. The grapes are picked into baskets and transported in bins to the winery where vinification begins.