Poet Ralph Waldo Emmerson famously said, “Nature never hurries, atom by atom, little by little, she achieves her work”. In the lead-up to this year’s harvest, Ryan Puttick, winemaker at Franschhoek Cellar, can certainly relate to these wise words. That’s because owing to the cool weather conditions experienced during the growing season so far, the grapes are ripening slower than usual.
Ryan and his team are subsequently waiting patiently for their fruit to reach perfect ripeness while making sure that all the cellar equipment is in tip-top shape and processes streamlined to ensure that Harvest 2019 runs smoothly. He also visits the vineyards daily with the viticulturist to taste grapes and test sugar levels, and while the vines and grapes are looking very healthy this year, they have noticed some uneven ripening. “This will require very hands-on vineyard management, including green harvesting to remove any unripe bunches, and also delicate winemaking with attention to detail to ensure that no green flavours end up in the eventual wines,” says Ryan.
The relatively cool Winelands spring and summer thus far, and especially the cold nights, bode well for the quality of the 2019 vintage, adds Ryan. The high acidities mean lower pH levels in the fruit, resulting in more stable wines with freshness and purity. He singles out Sauvignon Blanc as a variety that should really thrive under the cooler ripening conditions, and he is also excited about the red wines which promise to be elegant and balanced. If experience has taught him one thing, it is that nature can throw a curveball at any time, making it tricky to predict the outcome of a harvest season in these early stages. “If the ideal moderate temperatures persist, however, expect some excellent wines from the current vintage”, says Ryan.
The first grapes to arrive at the cellar this week was Pinotage for the Franschhoek Cellar Rosé, and according to Ryan, the juice looks vibrant and fresh. And while nature takes its time getting the rest of the crop ready, there won’t be an idle moment for this busy winemaker. Apart from harvest activities, Ryan also has lots of blending, bottling, wine tastings and even a major international trade show to attend to. But judging by his effervescent excitement about Franschhoek Cellar’s upcoming wine releases and the new vintage, he is taking it all in his stride.