Harvest Report 2008
Gearing up for glory
Harvest 2008 will surely be GRAPE! This was the optimistic logo on the Graham Beck Wines harvesting teams’ T-shirts this year – a prediction which happily proved true. For all those involved during harvest time at Graham Beck this is always a period marked by intense activity, heightened adrenaline levels, no shortage of stress, but also unequalled joy, pride and excited anticipation. Each year brings new challenges, surprising discoveries, fresh innovations and renewed enthusiasm and determination. In short…it’s all GO, but it’s all GOOD!
This year saw the last of the grapes being received on Thursday 3rd April 2008 at 14h20 in Robertson. This heralded the end of one of the longest harvests at Graham Beck Wines. Having started on 16th January, this makes a total of 79 exhausting days from start to finish. The cellar received no less than 1 555 separate grape loads during this period both at our Franschhoek and Robertson cellars.
The total amount of grapes welcomed into the Franschhoek cellar was 1 281 tons, while Robertson greeted a total of 2 725 tons. This makes a grand total of 4007 tons – an increase of 15% to what was handled in Harvest 2007. The reason behind the increase is that our new Sauvignon Blanc plantings have come into production for the first time on our Firgrove properties, while new plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have delivered on our Robertson estate.
“This has been a challenging harvest,” admits Pieter Ferreira, Graham Beck Wines cellarmaster. “I am extremely proud of the way we tackled this vintage,” says a chuffed Pieter. He doffs his hat to the teams involved at Franschhoek, Robertson, Firgrove and our grape partners from the outside. “This includes the pickers, the tractor drivers, our transporters, our winemakers and their teams in the cellars, our accountants signing the cheques and many, many more. In fact too many to mention! You have all been stars,” praises Pieter.
“Although there is always some degree of apprehension surrounding this crucial ‘make or break’ time, we at Graham Beck Wines have done a marvelous job in bringing in healthy grapes to our cellar,” comments Irene Waller, Graham Beck Wines Robertson winemaker. “We are eagerly taking stock of these superb wines in the making on their journey towards reaching their full potential. It might be early days yet, but they are already exhibiting great fruit and lots of finesse and elegance,” she says enthusiastically. “Please take time to visit us, we’ll be more than happy to share our thrilled anticipation with you,” adds Graham Beck Wines Franschhoek winemaker, Erika Obermeyer.
Although the cellars are always a hive of activity over harvest and there’s never a veritable dull moment, much of this ‘perspiration’ is due to meticulous ‘preparation’. This is where the fundamentally important foundations laid by the viticultural teams form an integral part of our success. Conditions for Harvest 2008 proved extremely favourable.
“We experienced good winter rains, enough winter cold and good budburst with late cultivars like Sauvignon Blanc while our Cabernet Sauvignon proved a tad uneven,” remarks Graham Beck Wines viticulturist Marco Ventrella. A wet and vigorous spring with continued rains in the growing season saw the establishment of large canopies and vigorous vines early in the season.
Mother Nature, as always, made sure we never became complacent, sending one or two climatic consternations our way to keep us on our toes! Wind played a significant role this year, punishing a few vineyards on exposed outcrops. In Stellenbosch, however, the wind provided an opportunity to counter the vigour of the rains as steady ‘Cape Doctor’ southeaster winds acted as a vigour regulating stress factor as well as drying the soils quickly, allowing for near perfect levels of water stress by January.
Harvest kicked off 10 days late in Robertson, starting with our base wines and proceeding without a hitch. “I really believe that 2008 will be a great base wine vintage for our Robertson estate,” says Pieter. The Chardonnay intake was as gratifying, with extremely good quality and healthy grapes that were among the first to ripen and show complex flavours at lower sugars.
In the coastal area it was a fantastic Sauvignon Blanc year, which may just rival the legendary 2007 vintage as best in the decade. Cool growing conditions and good rains saw Darling and Durbanville dryland Sauvignon develop beautifully with powerful concentration, good balance and great structure. These conditions also bode well for a good red vintage in these areas too.
In our Stellenbosch vineyards the ‘Cape Doctor’ kept us healthy and ensured vigour was under control. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes were the best our winemakers have ever seen in Stellenbosch and the reds are sure to be block buster winners. A larger crop necessitated careful work with green harvesting and meticulous monitoring of soil moistures. Slow sugar accumulation across the board for the reds resulted in longer hang times and will, most likely, yield softer, rounder phenols and more supple structure this year.
Our picks for 2008 include: Robertson’s Cap Classique, the Sauvignon Blanc from the Coastal region (particularly Darling, Durbanville and Stellenbosch), Chardonnay from Robertson, Chenin Blanc from Agter Paarl, Shiraz from Robertson and Stellenbosch and Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch.
“We are immensely excited to be working with Chenin Blanc for the first time in Franschhoek,” says Erika. “We have managed to source some of the very best vineyard blocks of Chenin Blanc,” she says. They are all bush vine and dry land vineyards with an average age of 36 years. The flavours are awesome and we look forward to introducing this Chenin Blanc later in the year.
In general – a sterling effort, fantastic co-operation, unparalleled attention to detail, unbelievable commitment and the promise of untold rewards…a harvest for the history books!

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