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Harvest excites Lourensford despite drought and fires

The quality of the 2017 grape harvest at Lourensford Estate is exceptional despite the impact of the ongoing drought in the Western Cape and the raging fires that swept through the Helderberg Mountains in January 2017, doing extensive damage to historic farms in Somerset West.

Lourensford Estate cellar master Hannes Nel says the vines are healthy, the crop levels normal and the quality very promising despite the fires and the drought in the Western Cape.

“The harvest dates are within the normal range, compared to the very early and short harvest period of 2016. In fact it is a cool vintage without any major heat spells so far. We experienced cool nights and moderate temperatures with the grapes maturing at a slower rate. This will enable us to produce wines with higher natural acidity, healthy pH levels and lower alcohol levels,” explains Nel.

“We lost Fynbos and plantations on the estate, but no vineyards were destroyed by the fires. The combination of high winds and the unique weather conditions in the Helderberg basin mean the smoke did not linger in the vines.”

So how do wine producers cope with drought, fires and other challenges nature throws at them?

“As a winegrower you need to be something of a weather expert and constantly look at various weather forecasts,” says Nel. “We irrigate the vines a little bit to protect them ahead of time if we expect extreme heat conditions. We also allow for enough leaf cover in case of extreme heat spells, to ensure the bunches are protected. If we expect rain and prolonged wet conditions, we reduce the leaf cover. This encourages air flow in the vineyards, preventing rot especially in our delicate Sauvignon blanc vineyards.”

Lourensford harvests Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon blanc, Merlot, Pinot noir, Shiraz, Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon, with Chardonnay for the MCC Brut blanc first up on 18 January 2017 and Cabernet Sauvignon the final grapes picked in March 2017.

“We expect the Chardonnay, Viognier and Merlot to be the stars of the 2017 vintage,” says Nel.

Owned by businessman Christo Wiese, the Lourensford Estate is arguably one of the most spectacular in South Africa. The historical estate, which was established in 1709, boasts a variety of award-winning wines, made from the vineyards grown and cultivated on the farm. The farm, spanning 4 000 hectares, is also home to apples, pears plums, fynbos and South Africa’s national flower; the Protea. Find out more on the website, Facebook, Twitter (@lourensford) and Instagram (@lourensford).

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