As South Africa slides into a warm and crispy autumn, it’s time for the wine master at Louisvale to head to the vines and see what the latest season has brought us. For all this is the very first step of many on the way to the succulent wine you sip tonight, it’s one of the most important- and fascinating! Today we take a sneak-peek behind the scenes at the mystery of wine harvesting in South Africa.

Louisvale wines are hand-harvested

As we focus on small scale, high-quality production, we are able to hand-harvest our grapes. This imparts a higher quality of harvest, and immediately allows for quality control on the grapes selected, something that can’t be achieved with machine harvesting, where everything is gathered regardless of quality. It’s more difficult, of course, but the results are well worth it!

This year, we’re heading out a little later than usual- a full fortnight, in fact. Climate change is primarily responsible for this shift. In Simon, our Viticulturist and Cellar Master, 32 years of winemaking, this will be the first time he’ll be bringing in Chardonnay in March. In itself, of course, this isn’t too much of a challenge.

However, it’s also been a very wet few weeks- something almost unheard of for Stellenbosch and the Western Cape at this time of year. Mid-March, we had a day where 50mm fell at Louisvale in just a few hours! This can be a serious hiccough for harvest time and needs some serious strategizing. In fact, we’ll see the yield down by around 50% this year, at only 5-6 tons per hectare. 

Rain can affect the sugar levels in the grapes, causing them to drop, so we’ll likely be bringing in the remainder of the harvest as late as April. Currently, we anticipate bringing in the last around the 1st of April and anticipate bringing in the last of the grapes.

The Louisvale 2021 vintage

On the plus side, however, the grapes that have come in already are of outstanding quality, offering excellent, clean fermentation. In particular, we’re expecting fantastic results for the Cabernet Sauvignon used in the Five Barrels as well as the Chardonnay grapes overall.

Currently, we’ve brought in the following harvests:

  • Chardonnay grapes, those used for our award-winning MCC and wooded/barrel-fermented range as well as the unwooded range.
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (partial)

We will be bringing in the rest of the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot harvest once the sugar levels have stabilised post-rain.

Planning for the future

So, which of our vintages are exciting Simon for the 2021 harvest? Although Simon’s specialty is Chardonnay, it’s also a stubborn, challenging grape to work with. Personally, he’s looking forward to the Cabernet Sauvignon of 2021, believing it will be a spectacular year.

Going ahead into the 2022 vintages, he’s switching around some pruning tactics on our Chardonnay vines, as well as adding another 2 hectares of Merlot, so be sure to keep watch for the results.

As always, Simon reminds us that expectation and reality, in a delicate industry like this, can quickly change- Mother Nature knows no master, after all. All the same, it’s shaping up to be a great year, and we’re all looking forward to tasting the first products of this delicious Louisvale Winery harvest.