About Cape Vintage….
With such a diversity of terroir, Macro, Micro and subterranean environment, vintages differences are not as marked as in the Old World, however South Africa’s most interesting, captivating and compelling wines are made by the dedicated, and widely travelled young generations of wine makers, making distinct wines of character and pedigree, reflecting site, vintage condition and complexity to rival some of the world’s benchmark…….hereunder a summarised retrospective of the past 26 years……
Cape Vintages 2008– 1999
2008 The wettest summer since record started in the 1800’s, almost sub-tropical conditions, rain every 6 days on average between November and March. Mildew, grey rot, and botrytis were the constant challenges; the older generation winemakers compared it to 1987 and 1977….. lots of thin and diluted white wines with distinct lack of varietal character, palate weight and concentration, the reds shows a little more promise with near perfect phenolic ripeness, as they say……..time will tell…..on one of worst vintages ever, careful threading and buying required. Some subtly oaked Viognier and unwooded Gamay Noir from Benchmark wineries, are quite stunning, more on the 2008 vintage, over the next couple of months.
2007 One of the earliest vintage to date, with harvest starting in the first week of January due to heat spells. Untimely rain was the biggest challenge, as it is one of the wettest summers ever. Generally disappointing Sauvignon Blanc across most areas, overall an average vintage.
2006 A good vintage overall. Good weather conditions at the start of the growing season led to good growth as well as flowering and set in the early varieties. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir were definitely the stars of the vintage as well as some stunning Chardonnays and Shiraz.
2005 Tough and extremely challenging vintage, extraordinarily high temperatures in Stellenbosch and Paarl, floods in Robertson, cool in Constantia, Durbanville Franschhoek, Elgin and Hemel en Aarde valley. 2005 will be remembered as one of the trickiest vintages to date, due to heat spells and unusual summer rainfall, in above mentioned areas.
The white wines from the cooler areas are living up to their expectations with good palate weight and longevity in the bottle. Otherwise average to good.
2004 Long and testing is how many producers will remember the 2004 harvest, as in 2003. Due to the cool growing conditions, much of the harvest was still hanging on the vines, beginning of March, when usually they are already in the cellar. Thanks to the excellent quality of the grapes, exceptional red wines, good and intense. As with all cool seasons, the wines will develop more slowly than warm season wines. Good Cabernets and some excellent Chardonnays.
2003 2003 harvest is generally considered to be the finest vintage since 1974, with the 1997 coming in close. The cool growing conditions allowed the grape to ripen slowly and reached optimum physiological ripeness, resulting in full bodied wines with lots of fruit and lovely colour.
2002 A Challenging and patchy year marred by an abnormally long heat wave, followed by untimely rain during harvest, some good Shiraz, especially the “Barossa” style, for the rest caveat emptor.
2001 Generally throughout the wine lands, ripening took place under cool conditions, with even the traditional February heat wave being tempered by low night-time temperatures. The overall view is that though quantity might be down, qualities were very good to excellent.
2000 Despite the unusual heat wave and soaring temperatures experienced at the beginning of this year, the overall quality of the grapes were superb for the ones lucky to be unscathed by the fires that ravaged our beautiful mountain and forest areas.
1999 The dry winter and unfavourable weather conditions in certain regions during pressing season resulted in grapes not ripening optimally. Cabernet Sauvignon have good structure with dark colours. The warm and dry growing season suited Pinotage particularly well and was the star variety of the vintage.
1998 Dry winter followed by a hot summer created wines with high alcohol. Good fruit makes most of the wines stand up for the alcohol but in some reds it is simply over powering.
1997 Long cool ripening period is every winemakers dream, and makes a wine with good balance between acidity, extract, and fruit. By far the finest vintage since 1974, some of the reds are starting to show well now.
1996 Cool season with lots of downy mildew, high pH, resulting in short lived wines for most of the part, but some really good quality wines were being made by the top Estates.
1995 Second very hot vintage after ’94 with even lower yield. A very ripe year for big concentrated, high quality reds, particularly good Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Pinotages. Excellent maturation potential, exercise patience.
1994 One of the hottest, driest and earliest vintages to date. Most winemakers are happy with the quality; some excellent reds have been made. This is largely due to improved vineyard management.
1993 Flowering took place in cool weather, but strong wind did considerable damage to many vines. January brought very hot weather, the quality areas produced better then average whites and most reds were good. Pinotage, Merlot and the early Cabernet Sauvignon all look good, but the late-ripening Cabs were disappointing.
1992 Another very good year. Red varieties on the whole did not quite achieve the heights of ’91, although some were outstanding. It was dry and cool leading up to the harvest. Cabernet Sauvignon as good as’ 91 and Pinotage were great.
1991 One of the best Cape vintages, certainly the best favourable weather-wise, resulting in the finest fruit quality. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot as well as Franc were excellent.
1990 This turned out to be a fine quality year, although the vintage gave the winemakers a lot of headaches, with most of the top quality grapes ripening at the same time. It was the first vintage with a significant amount of earlier-ripening virus-free clones to have a marked effect on the picking programme.
1989 Good bud burst followed a cold winter. Generally dry, although cool right through to Christmas. This gave slightly later ripening conditions, considerations improved quality and greater concentration of flavour resulted. Reds were good across the varieties, with a few gems.
1988 The long cool ripening season ended in the middle of the vintage, with a four-week heat wave. The cooler areas produced some very good wines and some magnificent dessert wines were made.
1987 The Coastal area experienced a lot of iodium and downy mildew due to a relatively wet but warm winter.
The outstanding features of the vintage was the balanced combination of high fixed acidity, low ph and good sugars.
1986 At the time one of the hottest, driest summers for a couple of decades. Winemakers were generally delighted with the quality of their reds and the better whites. Some Cabernet Sauvignon still has lots of development potential.
1985 The cool condition and frequent rains during the ripening period yielded grapes with good acid, but
Lacking sugar with resultant lower alcohol in the wines. Generally better whites than reds.
1984 After a record crop (by volume) in 1983, the reserve nutrients in the wood and root system of the vines were at a low level and it was anticipated that the ’84 crop would be relatively small. As it happened, the Western Cape had one of its wettest winters in ten years. Conditions resulted in a better-than-expected crop in terms of both volume and quality. Some very good Shiraz, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon were produced.
1983 The crop was up some 5% on the record harvest of 1982 and it was a sound vintage, although the sugar and acid levels were generally lower some exceptional wines were made. Wines are well balanced and developing better than expected.
1982 Almost perfect climatic conditions enabled superb wines to be made. Some reds are showing excellent character.