With the vineyards lush in the Breedekloof and an important growth phase having been reached, a busy time lies ahead for uniWines Vineyards viticulturist Gert Engelbrecht. Besides the work in the vineyards there is also the question of the cricket test series between South African and Australia that demands the attention of this cricket-crazy vineyard man.
Thanks to a cold, wet winter, the vineyards are in very good condition. “The cold portions during winter – where temperatures regularly approached freezing – caused the vine cycle to be later than the previous year,” says Gert. “The early vines started blossoming about a week later than last year, but despite rain and cold in October, the vineyard flowered at the expected time.”
According to him, timing matters less than evenness. “So far, bud-break and flowering were exceptionally even, which is very important for a high production area such as ours because it facilitates the management of the vineyard and work schedule, and leads to even ripening,” Gert explains.
The hard work now lies in the suckering and canopy management, elements that are very important to Gert considering he holds a steadfast belief that the key to good quality wine lies in sufficient exposure to light of the vineyard canopy. In other words, the foliage should not be too dense and dark!
“Through suckering we remove the superfluous shoots that do not carry grapes and we retain the right amount of strong shoots that will receive enough sunlight to ripen grapes effectively and quickly,” says Gert. “And it now begins to get hot in our valley – when the berries form, it should be under the right conditions so that they can grow accustomed to the heat.”
As is becoming of a viticulturist, Gert is not easily given to voicing predictions about the coming year’s harvest. As he and uniWines Vineyards farmers know, nature doesn’t simply let itself be dictated to. “Initially things were late to get underway, but it does appear as if next year’s harvest will begin at its usual time at the end of January.”
However, just like cricket, anything can happen in the vineyard…