IndustryHarvest Report 2023

Harvest Report 2023

At last! A moment to catch one’s breath and reflect on the past two months of harvest. It has been quite a journey up to this point and now at the beginning of April, we find all the grapes are safely in the cellar with the last of the pressing coming to an end. It was a challenging harvest with a clear detachment between phenolics and sugar ripening, and not without a couple of late-game curve balls but we’ll get into that in just a moment.

In the 2022 winter season, rains started late, with the first significant precipitation falling mid to late June, followed by below-average rainfall for July and August. This below-average trend continued with cold units lower than the previous winter. This was particularly noted in cultivars such as Chardonnay, which are sensitive to cold units.

Prolonged cool Spring conditions caused bud break dates to fall within the expected window in contrast with 2022 which was up to 14 days later. We experienced beautiful even budding on our varieties that are not as sensitive to cold units with only certain blocks of Shiraz and Chardonnay being affected. These cooler-than-normal conditions persisted until the end of December, meaning the vines grew evenly and with less stress during Spring.

Despite lower winter rainfall figures, the soil profiles were still sufficiently saturated at the start of the summer season due to unusually high rainfall in December (135 mm). This coupled with a high humidity caused a significant level of disease pressure, but due to timeous spraying the occurrence of downy and powdery mildew was avoided.

A cooler start to the summer saw average day temperatures recorded at 26 ᴼC and night temperatures averaging 18 ᴼC. This allowed for the slow development of the berries. The first two weeks of January, however, saw a drastic increase in day temperatures, often recorded at above 30 ᴼC. This warm spell leading up to the beginning of harvest caused a detached flavour to sugar development. It was important to pick according to phenolic ripeness on earlier cultivars such as Sauvignon blanc and Chardonnay, as opposed to just looking at sugar development when deciding on a harvest date. Despite these warmer January temperatures, the average day temperature was still a degree lower than in 2022. Harvest officially began on the 31st of January with a first pick of our young Chardonnay block, this was four days earlier than recorded in 2022. The beginning of February commenced with cooler day temperatures compared to the 2022 vintage. This allowed for the slow development of the aromatics of our Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Chenin blocks. We were able to take in the grapes when phenolic ripeness was achieved. We finally took in the last of our white grapes on the 23rd of February. On the production side, Sauvignon and Chardonnay were slightly down across all the blocks. Contrary to this trend the later ripening Chenin was up in production. The quality across all the picks from all the white cultivars is incredible. I will battle to choose my favourites when it comes to blending.

The red cultivars first appeared in the cellar on the 15th of February, as to be expected Pinotage almost always overlaps with your white varietals, this again was five days earlier than in 2022. The red cultivars developed slowly, and we were able to harvest our most important blocks when they were ready. In February we took in Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet franc and early picks of Syrah before any rain affected the grapes. In March we received a lot of rain throughout the month which made planning and deciding on picking days quite challenging. Despite the rain, we were able to bring in our Syrah with good flavour and at an acceptable ripeness level. The colour and aromatics in the Syrah during the first few days of fermentation were incredible the cellar smelt like a spice factory with notes of cumin, cloves and black pepper hanging in the air. Regarding our red production, our Cabernet, Pinotage, and Syrah yields were up. Our bush vines across the cultivars were down this year most likely due to the wind during flowering. Leading up to veraison I did see quite a bit of millerandage and uneven ripeness in the bush vine blocks.

To conclude it was a good harvest quality wise and I will struggle to choose my favourite batches, especially in the Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah Private Collection for 2023. Despite our bush vines underperforming, our production was higher than in 2022. If we do not consider the Loubser Cab and Hoofhuis Merlot from the 2022 harvest, which was removed, we had a total production of 419 t. From this vintage, we brought 433 t into the cellar! It’s great to see our younger blocks of Cabernet and Syrah stepping up with great quality and an impressive yield!

Our last ferments are finishing up and we have a handful of tanks left to press at this stage. There is a lot to be excited about from the 2023 vintage and I can’t wait to present the various batches that we have to the team!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the cellar and vineyard teams for their hard work and dedication, the long hours put in to craft wines of superior quality and for aiding us to pick when the grapes were ready. A special thanks to Donovan and Inge for their support during my first harvest, their guidance and experience helped shape the quality that we have in the cellar. True Saxenburgers through and through. To Kyle, Mandy, Zandria and the rest of the team thank you for keeping the coffee pot on, a kind word and checking in to make sure we were moving forward, all these small details are appreciated.

A final thanks to Fiona and the rest of the Bührer family. Your passion and vision for this estate, the people, and the wines we produce are an inspiration. I look forward to tasting the fruits of this harvest with you all!

Brendan Smith- Winemaker

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