It’s proper winter in the Stellenbosch winelands. Temperatures have dropped and we are thankful for every drop of rain, especially after 2018 started off as one of the driest years on record. At Ernie Els Wines we are very blessed to have bountiful water on the Helderberg. We were however still careful with our water use during the summer months leading up to harvest. We’ve also been working hard to adapt our viticultural techniques during the past 3 years to help the vineyards cope optimally with the heat and limited irrigation. Vineyards are resilient plants and it’s natural instinct in drier years are to produce smaller bunches with smaller berries. Small berries is usually the start of a great wine and 2018 was no different.
A warm and dry, but moderate ripening season meant that harvest started in the middle of February with Merlot, as per usual, arriving first. As custodians of all the berries arriving at the cellar we were careful to not over work the already small berries. The Merlot was soon followed by the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon with our last grapes picked towards the middle of April. The long stretched out harvest season gave the grapes plenty of hang time on the vineyards to develop complex flavours and time to reach optimal ripeness. Quality was shining through on all varieties, especially the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Even some of the young Cabernet blocks, with some of our new clones, were starting to show some true potential. Watch this space…
As the evenings started to cool down and the first hints of autumn arrived most of our wines were pressed and the barrel work started. The cellar team worked hard to carefully move the new 2018 wine batches from tank to barrel. We try to keep all our newly made wine batches separate for as long as possible in order to give each batch of wine optimal time to develop and show it’s potential before ultimately deciding on our final blends for each wines.
The start of winter, usually signals the start of new blends to be made up and prepped for bottling. The 2017 Big Easy Red and 2017 Big Easy Cabernet Sauvignon was the the first two wine to be blended in the cellar and excitement started to build as the amazing quality and complexity of the 2017 vintages started to show in these two wines. The 2017 Big Easy Red blend was definitely an immediate favourite for us and potential superstar wine.
We’ve settled into our winter routine of morning coffees to warm up, tasting barrels for blending, blending the new 2017 wines which seems to be exceptional all round and making sure the new blends make their way safely into bottle before being tucked away and awaiting release. The vineyard team will start pruning next week which already signals the start of the new growing season, but for now here in the Ernie Els Cellar, we’re keeping warm and enjoying the blissful process of crafting the splendid 2017 vintage wines.