Backsberg Harvest 2017 Kicks-off Early with Top Quality Fruit
With 2016 having gone down as a year of fire, smoke, drought and heat in the Simonsberg region, laymen cannot be blamed for questioning the quality and conditions of this year’s wine grape harvest. However, according to Simon Back, CEO of Backsberg Estate Cellars in Paarl, the current harvest season is delivering healthy bunches of grapes in pristine condition.
“After last year’s fires, if you see a green patch on the Simonsberg it is a vineyard,” says Back. “With fires having caused havoc in various regions of the Cape this year, there is nothing left to burn on our side, so fire-influence will most definitely not be a factor in Harvest 2017.”
Despite the by-now notoriously dry summer conditions in the Western Cape, Backsberg’s vineyards were exposed to carefully managed irrigation from the farm’s own water-supply.
“2016 might not have seen an exceptionally wet winter,” says Back, “but temperatures were low for long periods and the rain that did fall was even and soft, without any run-off water which caused the moisture to steep deep-down into the soil.”
Bud-break, berry-set and veraison in the Backsberg vineyard were all on schedule, and the first grapes were already lying in the cellar in the first week of January.
“We have this one block of Chardonnay that always jumps the gun, and we must have been one of the earliest Cap Classique-pickers in the region,” he says. “Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage, used for our Rosé were picked last week, and now we are thick into the Chardonnay for our still-wine range. In the upcoming weeks we hope to have the rest of our grapes in the cellar, with our red varieties making a splash by the end of February”.
Bunches show even ripening, good balance between acids and sugars, with yields not showing any effects of the dry, hot conditions from last year.
Backsberg’s vineyards are spread over 60 hectares and include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, each variety planted to sites especially selected to provide optimum varietal expression.
“It is still too early to make a call on wine quality, but analysis shows healthy pH levels and nothing out of kilter on the acid-to-sugar ratio,” says Back. “But we have just gotten out of the blocks, and the climate conditions for the next two months will determine the quality of the red varieties which are still out there. A dependence on the whims of nature is a feature of our industry, and not even the most confident punter dares provide a prediction before the grapes are in.”