With harvest kicking off particularly early this year in mid-January, it was all systems go at Franschhoek Cellar. Led by winemaker Ryan Puttick, the team had their hands full, starting with the first pickings of Pinotage for rosé.

Looking back on the spring and summer season leading up to harvest, the mild day temperatures and cooler evenings ensured a steady ripening of fruit in the vineyards. This meant that once the Pinotage was off the vines, it was straight to the white varietals Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and last but certainly not least, Chenin Blanc.

Yet, while harvest was initially speeding along, things quietened somewhat due to the unexpected rain at the end of February, which lowered temperatures and slowed down ripening.

“This was not necessarily a bad thing, as slow ripening is good for quality, but rot can start to creep in due to the rain. So, we kept a close eye on the vineyards, and I’m happy to report we made the right picking choices and the quality of fruit harvested is excellent”, explains Ryan.

From the onset, the grapes were showing off superb flavours. “Better than last year, in my opinion”, adds Ryan.

It’s not been all smooth sailing though. Challenges this year included lower yields following the ongoing drought and managing the pH and acidity levels in the white varietals. “While initially, the whites were showing a desired high natural acidity and good pH, the pH climbed quite a bit during a heat wave in February and the acidity dropped. As these are two fundamental winemaking components, we had to monitor this very carefully,” Ryan points out.

Meanwhile, the reds required even more attention due to some uneven ripening. As a direct result of the Cape’s terrible drought, this meant that some berries stayed sour, hard and green while others ripened and darkened in colour normally. To counter-act any unwanted vegetative character, Heinie and the vineyard team ensured a green harvest was conducted. In addition, the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes went through a more extended ripening period due to the cooler weather and rain. This meant that while the grapes reached physiological ripeness at lower sugars, the pH started to climb and total acidity (TA) dropped. Ryan monitored the grapes closely to pick at the optimal time.

Harvest successfully came to a close at the end of March, with the last Merlot grapes coming in from Stellenbosch. In the cellar, the team are already seeing some great results. “I am really looking forward to releasing the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, as well as the 2019 Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz as they are already showing well.”

Ryan’s positive attitude and diligence in the cellar means he is able to continually maintain the Franschhoek Cellar vision, which in his own words, is “all about over-delivering on quality. In my opinion, the value in the bottle far exceeds what you are paying”.

We are confident that this year’s fruit of the vine will speak for itself.