Simonsig Harvest Report 2018 Week 5 and 6

Monday 12 February to Friday 23 February 2018

Last week was seriously busy and close to fever pitch.  However, since Monday 19th February we have been in the doldrums. Time to catch our breath, to get the new Chardonnays into barrel and focus on the Pinotages in the red fermenters. We are actually waiting for the Chenin Blancs to ripen, but due to the exceptionally dry conditions, we have decided to harvest more Chenin at lower levels of ripeness, when there is more acidity and freshness. I am pleased to say that the Chenins harvested early are exceptionally fruity which bodes well for the grapes still on the vines. The Simonsig Chenin style is based on full ripeness when the berries start to turn into a russety, tan colour with some raisined berries developing due to transpiration. It concentrates the flavours and the acidity becaue it is water that evaporates and this enhances the ripe, dried fruit and honey flavours that add a lot of fatness and viscosity to the mouthfeel. In a dry vintage like 2018 more Chenin was harvested at just over 20° Balling for higher acidity and more freshness as well as lower resultant alcohol.

Simonsig Estate is celebrating its 50th  anniversary this year. Exactly fifty years ago, my father Frans Malan took the giant leap to bottle the first Simonsig wine, Simonsig Steen. It was about the same time when Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for mankind on the moon!  Frans Malan put his Simonsig Steen on the market for an exorbitant price of R6.00! For a case of 12 that is. It is half a century later and Chenin Blanc (named Steen in the 60’s) is still our most popular wine, but unlike today, Chenin was always seen as a work horse and not a show horse in those days. Please keep in mind though that there was no Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc , Riesling or even Merlot plantings back then. So Chenin was our man! When Frans made the first wooded white wine in South Africa in 1978, Simonsig Fumé Blanc, he used Chenin Blanc.

The best Chardonnay blocks were also harvested during week 5 and the fruit was exceptionally healthy with very intense ripe flavours. Chardonnay unlike Sauvignon Blanc can thrive in warmer conditions and make beautiful luscious wines. The yield for Chardonnay was similar to last year for most vineyards, while a few were down by as much as 22%.

Pinotage kept the team busy during the past fortnight with manual punch downs and pump overs to extract colour, fruit and tannin. Adding up to 20% of whole bunches to the ferment has been part of our new techniques introduced over the past few years and it has added a lot of dimension to the Pinotage’s depth and complexity. You’re never to old to learn new tricks!

Sauvignon Blanc from our cooler sites of Darling and Walker Bay also came in. With the Darling, fruit it was the aim to pick much earlier than previous years to get more green herbaceous flavours of figs and gooseberries. These characters,called  pyrazines are heat sensitive and will disappear quickly in a warm vintage like 2018. The Elim Sauvignon will be the last to be harvested at the end of February, because it is the coolest site in the country for Sauvignon Blanc.

Week 6 ended with a thimblefull of Marsanne from Stellenbosch. This is part of the ongoing experimentation with Rhone white varieties which may become very impotant to us if global warming takes effect in the future. So far it has given very exciting results.

Joha Malan  Cellar Master