Traditionally during the months of February, March and April, it is a rare occurrence to see winemakers mingling with consumers, as this is the time most (if not all) of their attention is spent on the harvest season. An integral part of the winemaking process, where Mother Nature plays the starring role, as the ‘sound of harvest’ echoes through the vineyards. However, this year, as we discovered when we managed to steal a few minutes of Perdeberg Cellarmaster, Albertus Louw’s time, we soon discovered that Mother Nature had a co-star. Eskom. With the daily load-shedding and unexpected rainfall in the latter part of the harvest, Albertus and his team had to adjust their schedule accordingly so as to manage the intake of grapes differently.
Loadshedding creates its own set of challenges, as the generators aren’t always able to handle the capacity. This results in generators breaking down and causing huge delays. Although frustrating at times the teams were able to adjust the intake of grapes and plan accordingly for the work needed to be done in the cellar. Even though the load-shedding has had a great impact on the grape intake, thankfully this did not affect the quality.
“Compared to 2022, there were no extreme heat conditions, which is generally the case, but this year harvest started a week earlier. This resulted in 22 000 tons being harvested with an expected completion date of the harvest being early April. Unfortunately, the volume hasn’t been in our favour, and we expect to be down by at least 22%,” says Albertus.
Most of the grapes this year were sourced from the Paarl and Swartland appellations, and the forecast on varietals to watch is the Chenin Blanc and Shiraz, which look promising but still need time to develop. Despite these challenges resulting in lower volumes being available to the consumer, Albertus believes this will be one of Perdeberg’s better vintages, with the new release wines available end of April.
“We couldn’t achieve these results without an amazing team,” adds Albertus. “In order to manage the volumes that we do, our team comprises 108 staff, working two shifts over a 24-hour period, Monday to Friday, during harvest. During this time, they see very little of their family as our day starts at 6:30 am and can end well into the night. I want to use this opportunity to thank my whole team for their dedication and hard work during this year’s harvest, and I look forward to reaping our rewards with the first release. The passion for this artisanal craft is constantly reaffirmed in the recognition received from industry peers.”
Vineyard to bottle – not a simple process, but one that is filled with handcrafted dedication, and the help of Mother Nature.