Alisha Schenck, 22 March 2016
This year’s harvest at Benguela Cove was one to remember. The harvest team were well underway since the end of January and, due to extreme heat, this was the earliest harvest experienced in nearly 20 years in the Walker Bay region. The 2016 harvest will be remembered for the devastating fires throughout the Cape Winelands which made this year’s harvest a challenging one for wine farmers alike. Benguela Cove was fortunate to not be affected by these fires and with the exceptional conditions of their vineyards they were able to buffer against the extremes thrown at them by nature.
Gail force winds and high temperatures were no match for Benguela Cove’s well balanced canopies which managed to protect their crop and craft another unique vintage. Like people, no two vintages are the same and viticultural challenges are based on the hand that is dealt by nature each year.
Grape sampling twice a week enabled the team to keep track of the ripening of different blocks and to avoid being caught off guard. As the samples got closer to the ripening stage, a full analysis was done to test the sugar levels, acidity and pH. Before the final stage of sampling the blocks were tested several times to ensure optimum phenolic ripeness and the desired flavours.
Benguela Cove kicked off with Sauvignon Blanc and harvested their first two blocks in at a low sugar in order to capture a green spectrum of flavours. Their wide pruning window from June to September enabled the team to stretch ripening times which resulted in heady notes of apple and green figs, indicating another promising vintage. To create a complex wine the Sauvignon Blanc was hand and machine picked over a period of 14+ days to capture the flavours of all 27 blocks..
The newest member on their harvesting team, the Gregoire G7 Harvester, enabled the team to harvest at night which increased the quality of their aromatic varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Soon after these cultivars, the team moved on to Merlot and harvested the grapes at a lower sugar for Rosé. Shortly thereafter the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay followed. The Chardonnay grapes we picked fully ripe and showed hints of honey and spice while the Pinot Noir was harvested at a riper stage to ensure a more mature and complex wine.
Next, the team harvested their Cabernet Franc, Viognier and Shiraz. A balance was maintained between growth and yield which resulted in exceptional quality grapes, evident when pressing the grapes by hand for analysis. Benguela Cove has harvested a personal record of 750 tons during their 2016 harvest.
The vines will soon go to rest with nights getting cooler in Autumn and after-harvest practices will be put into action. Benguela Cove’s Harvest Festival took place on the 19th of March and celebrated the release of their new vintages and the end of their 2016 harvest with 130 patrons attending the colourful festival.