The last grapes for our bubbly and still wines were picked on Thursday 23 March. All that remains to be harvested are approximately three tons of grapes for our Cape Vintage and this will be done in a week’s time. In the meantime we’ve asked members of the hardworking Creation team to comment on the 2017 harvest.
Cellarmaster JC Martin:
Due to a well thought-through pruning schedule and optimum weather conditions during the 2017 harvest, our vineyards could be picked block by block with the grapes showing optimum concentration, high natural acidity and perfect phenolic ripeness. The crop size was perfect thanks to meticulous vineyard practices and management during the growth period as well as ideal weather conditions such as wind factors during the flowering season. The Sauvignon Blanc came in at 7 to 8 tons per hectare, the Chardonnay at 6 tons and the red grapes at around 4.5 tons per hectare. A perfect rhythm set in during the second half of the harvest as the good weather prevailed and then on the last day we had a good rain at the end of picking – definitely a good omen and helping to build the vineyard reserves post-harvest before the dormant phase during winter.
Referring to climatic conditions, vineyard manager Peter Davison had the following to say:
In January there was 75 mm of rain with thunder and lightning that gave the vines a good bit of natural water and nitrogen. There was also a little rain (17 mm) in February which made choosing picking days easy. One could wait for optimal ripeness. Although hot, no heat waves were experienced. The grapes came off clean and disease and pest free with optimal tonnages.
According to viticulturist Johan Pienaar the 2017 vintage might be one to remember for its exceptional wines:
Temperatures tended to be cooler than the previous season with just a few very hot days occurring during January. After veraison the grapes ripened in cool conditions with little or no water stress. Early indications on wine quality are exceptionally good. An outstanding factor for this cooler 2017 season is the higher natural acidity and lower pH found in the white as well as the red cultivars.
Michael Malan commented on cellar activities:
All the white wines are dry fermented at this stage. As constant innovation is part of the Creation philosophy we did some experimental work on Chenin Blanc from the Hemel-en-Aarde trying different yeasts on the same batch. We are waiting for malolactic fermentation to start on the Chardonnay and on some of the reds that are already pressed such as the Pinot Noir and the Merlot. Some of the Syrah is left on the skins for extended maceration after fermentation.
An enthusiastic Bobby Wallace (our South African intern) remarked:
During the middle of harvest I was learning to multitask with white and red grapes coming into the cellar for about a week; then it became more relaxed as the reds came in systematically. This was a huge learning opportunity and I found it particularly exciting and stimulating to work with the wide range of cultivars, given the great weather window of opportunity in the Hemel-en-Aarde.
Our Swiss intern Nick Rothlisberger added:
I learned a great deal about barrel fermentation and how JC selects specific barrels for each cultivar. It was such a pleasure to work with such healthy grapes; it was not necessary to do any selection in the cellar which made harvesting a real pleasure. I am especially excited about the Pinot Noir and Merlot; they already taste good at this early stage which is pre-malolactic fermentation. I can’t wait to taste these in a few months and again in a few years as finished wines!
Our intern Juan Pina from Mendoza echoed the enthusiasm:
The weather has been so exceptional; everyone in the Hemel-en-Aarde is taking about the quality of this vintage. I am so glad I was here to experience it. I really enjoyed working with the range of varieties and the possibilities these presented – from a personal point of view this was very good career experience.
Kirsten Myburgh commented on the teamwork:
We had a great deal of fun and it was hard work but what we put in we got out so far. It was a real team effort with everyone doing their part – teamwork = dream work!
Urle Hansom reminded that there is still work to do:
Although all the grapes are in – except for the Cape Vintage – there is still a great deal of work to do in the cellar. Perhaps it is not as intense as harvest and a little more measured but we need to make sure we look after everything carefully until those bottled wines are delivered to the tables around the world for our clients to enjoy the fruit of our labour.
Creation co-owner and marketing director Carolyn Martin had the last word:
We look forward to sharing these wines in the months to come with family and friends, clients and sommeliers. We are so grateful to and proud of the team and wish to thank each and every one of them, also those not mentioned above.