It is fair to say that a lot has happened since the last time we spoke. The world has gone a little crazy in the face of an international pandemic and, despite our best efforts to keep our chins up, we have not been unaffected. As we stand on the precipice ready to bravely jump straight into level 3 of the national lockdown, we would like to take a moment to reflect on the last two months.

As part of the agriculture sector, we were allowed to finish up our 2020 harvest. A blessing, as this allowed us to keep producing the stellar quality wines you have come to know and love. However, along with our neighbours, we have suffered greatly under the regulations prohibiting the sale of alcohol.  We therefore implore you to stock up on all your favourites once the sale of wine is allowed again.

Hard at work in the cellar

Even before lockdown began, we had a few challenges. We battled a ghastly loadshedding schedule which wreaked havoc on our normal operations schedule. Some processes cannot be started unless you know without a doubt that you will be able to finish them. Our team is extremely dedicated, though… Our winemaker, Christo Kotze, fell while performing his magic, hurting his leg, but carried on making wine on crutches.

The real stars working behind the scenes

One of our biggest harvests
It is said that with great sacrifice often comes great reward. Picking grapes during lockdown, with only a skeleton staff, was challenging. “We had quite a long harvest season in the cellar which started on the 10th of February and carried on until mid-April,” says winemaker, Christo Kotze. “We soldiered on through the tough periods. We managed to get everything in the cellar amidst the chaos, thanks to the efforts of our vineyard staff who worked around the clock to ensure we get the best fruit.” Despite the challenges the overall yield of the farm this year was higher than those of the last two dryer years. The scales groaned under the weight of more than 270 ton of exceptional quality grapes – 96, 8 ton of that pinot noir.

Rain, though desperately needed, can wreak havoc on your schedule. This is just as true for a vineyard as it is for your 11 o’clock meeting. The Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge received a fair amount of rain before the grapes started to ripen. This could have caused problems. Instead, Mother Nature used it to lessen the effect of water stress levels on the vines, allowing them to live their best lives and function optimally during the ripening period.

Back in November 2019 when our cooling container arrived

Hanging with the cool kids
The silver lining to all our obstacles has undoubtedly been our cooling container. You may recall that we mentioned this wonderful new addition in the December issue of our newsletter. The container made the harvest so much simpler. Because the harvested grapes could “chill out” in the container while waiting for the rest to picked, all the grapes could be brought into our cellar in exceptional condition. This also, in time, will have a profound impact on the quality of our wine – which is in line with our vision of producing better and better quality wines year on year.

We will welcome you here again soon

We remain humble and grateful
In the words of Farm Manager, Neill Gellatly, “the 2020 harvest was interesting, with lots of curve balls”. However, there is agreement amongst the team that the 270 ton of grapes processed in the cellar is of exceptional quality and that the resulting wines will be absolute showstoppers. “I am extremely excited to see how they develop during the rest of their maturation period in barrel and tank,” says Christo. Although the winemaking landscape looks a little different than normal at the moment, we remain hopeful for the future. How could we not? We will be looking back on this challenging time while toasting with a glass of the best wine we’ve perhaps ever produced.

We need your help
It is going to take time and considerable effort to fully recover from the damage done by the corona virus. Many people the world over have lost either their loved ones or their livelihoods. This is true of our beautiful country as well, and the impact of the crisis will be felt in the wine industry for some time to come. We therefore ask you to help us keep our doors open, our staff employed, and our wines on shelves. Once allowed, visit our Tasting Room, buy our wines as birthday gifts and eat at our restaurant. In return, we promise to keep producing remarkable wines for you to enjoy. We will see you on the other side of the madness… Until then, stay safe.