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Douglas Green: a harvest with a happy ending

28 June 2011 by Douglas Green
Douglas Green`s Oenologist, Jaco Potgieter says that "2011 has been an interesting year with some expected surprises, I think we have a lot to look forward to from 2011."
An early summer heat-wave that hit the Western Cape winelands at just the right time played a major role in the outlook for this year`s grape harvest. According to Jaco Potgieter, Oenologist at Douglas Green Wines in Wellington, the three day spike during the first week of January saw temperatures rising well above 40°C in areas such as Robertson, Worcester and Wellington.

"Douglas Green`s diverse range of wines is produced from vineyards in Robertson, Bonnievale, Worcester, Wellington and the Swartland, and you can bet your bottom dollar that every summer a heat-wave will break out in these areas," says Potgieter. "It is, however, much better to have the heat at the beginning of the season before the grapes are ripened. This limits damage due to sunburn and for some heat-loving varietals, such as Chardonnay and varieties grown on bush-vines, the hot weather complements the phenolic ripening."

"Grapes are healthy all round - in terms of volume as well as quality," says Jaco. "Despite the dry winter the Cape experienced last year, spring and early summer was characterised by even and consistent temperatures. This does not only concern air temperature, but the soil temperature remained consistent, too. The result is that the growing phase was in a total balance - above the ground where the leaves, shoots, flowers and bunches are, as well are the root structures. This is extremely positive."

Adding to plant health, thunderstorms in December saw 10kg of natural nitrogen being dropped on the vineyards, livening up the soils and causing the vines to get a surge of energy going into the grapes` ripening stage.

"The harvest was slightly later than last year, with our first Chenin Blanc grapes and Pinotage for rosé arriving at the cellars at the end of January and beginning February," says Potgieter. "Our Chenin Blanc, which we source from the Swartland and Wellington, is this year characterised by tight bunches and thick skins which is going to lead to pronounced fruit-intensity."

Our chardonnay was ripe on the outside but slightly greener at the core, which should lead to a delectable balance between sunny fruit and fresh acidity."The vines grown on the limestone soils of Robertson and Bonnievale are world-renowned for top Chardonnay quality, enabling us to give wines with a classic structure complemented by the fruit-forward, peachy notes from the grapes we get from the Worcester area."

Despite the warm summer, Douglas Green`s Sauvignon Blanc vineyards have developed superbly as a result of the sites where these vines are planted. "Our Sauvignon Blanc originates from Robertson, Bonnievale, Wellington and the Breedekloof region and planted on slopes fanned by the southerly and south-easterly breezed," says Potgieter. "Here the early heat-waves have done wonders to the Sauvignon Blanc by literally burning the excessive green pyrazines out of the grapes during the early ripening period. The result is exactly the kind of fruit Douglas Green needs for our Sauvignon Blanc - lush tropical flavours of litchi and granadilla, and not harsh stomach-churning acids. It is a beautiful year for Sauvignon Blanc."

On the red side, Merlot and Shiraz have velvety tannins this year as a result of even ripening and the rush of energy the grapes soaked up from the heat of early January. pH levels have risen and acids stabilized - great news for any winemaker.2011 looks set to be an excellent year for Merlot in particular. "Douglas Green`s most popular red wine - Merlot - promises to be the stand out red this year with none of the green characteristics this tricky varietal is known to take on."