Wine ClubHarvestHarvest Report 2022

Harvest Report 2022

Harvest 2022 is officially completed. As the fermentations come to an end and we are pressing the last of our red tanks, we can reflect on the season that has passed.

Weather changes and Seasons at Saxenburg

We had a wonderfully wet and cold winter in 2021, with above-average rainfall throughout the winter months. When budding started, a few weeks later than normal, the effect of the great winter was evident. We experienced beautifully even budding on all our varieties, which made the early season canopy management much simpler than the previous year.

The season was off to a relatively slow start, with rainy weather persisting until the end of August and cooler weather staying with us throughout spring. These cooler than normal conditions persisted until the end of December, meaning the vines grew evenly and without stress during the first half of the season. Some rainy days in October and November did however add immensely to disease pressure, but through careful and meticulous canopy management and perfect execution of our spraying program, the vineyard team ensured our vineyards stayed disease-free.

At the end of December and throughout January and February, the Cape experienced numerous heat spells, with one or two days even coming close to 40 degrees Celsius! Fortunately, the soils were still well buffered after the winter rain, but careful soil moisture management with supplemental irrigation was of utmost importance to avoid excessive stress while the grapes were going through veraison.

The Harvest Season

Harvest finally started on the 4th of February, with some early-pick Chardonnay, but with less than 10 tons picked during the first week of harvest, it was an easy and relaxed start. However, with the recurring heat spells, lots of time was spent in the vineyard tasting and sampling, to ensure we got our picking dates right. Hotter weather tends to shorten picking windows considerably and especially on a heat-sensitive variety like Sauvignon blanc, missing a pick by a day could be disastrous.  By middle February we were running along nicely, with Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, and Chenin blanc coming into the cellar. It was very heartening to see the hard work in the vineyards paying off, as all the blocks were up in production while maintaining incredible quality.

The last of our white varieties were picked on the 28th of February and even though it’s still early to make a final judgment on the quality, the signs are very encouraging. With the heat spells, we expected much lower acidities and that is definitely the case. Fortunately, we could adapt our approach accordingly, so this year saw much less skin contact before pressing so that we could preserve as much acidity as possible. Spreading our picks a bit wider and doing a few more “early” picks also helped to ensure we have fresher and brighter components at our disposal when blending. Even at this early stage, the wines are very inviting and wonderfully textured. Much less nervy than at the same stage in a cooler vintage.

We started picking the first of our reds on the 21st of February, with a small batch of early pick Syrah. The reds were in no hurry for most of the season, despite the heat, so we saw wonderful even ripening and incredible colour development. I cannot remember seeing such incredible tannin ripeness and colour intensity on early pick Syrah and Malbec, as we experienced this year. Like with the whites, most of our red blocks were slightly up in production, but with none of them cropping too much. It was much more a case of having a healthy and even-ripening crop, which did not necessitate as much green harvesting.

Looking ahead for Saxenburg

With this being my third harvest at Saxenburg, I’m really getting to know each block very well and starting to understand how to use different approaches to get the best results from each section we pick. I think the biggest gains we have made in this regard have been on how we approach our Syrah harvest. Taking notes from past experiences, we are learning more and more about which sections to pick earlier, which ferments to add stems too, which to do whole-bunch fermentation with, and what extraction protocol is best suited to each parcel. With this, we can really start to extract more individualistic quality from each parcel, with the goal of gaining more building blocks and complexity for the final wine. As an example of this, this year we have roughly 20 different batches of Syrah all coming from our 7 Syrah blocks on the farm.

We are still hard at work pressing all our tanks, but so far, I’m very happy with how everything came in and the diversity of styles we’ll have to work with come blending time. The reds seem to have beautiful colour intensity, fruit purity, and fine tannin structures.

As always, the success of the harvest would not have been possible without the dedicated teams in the vineyards and cellar, ensuring we could get everything in the cellar on time, even on the long and tiring days!

Looking forward to enjoying the fruits of the 2022 harvest with everyone soon!

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