As the Darling Wine Shop continues to establish itself, it has become something of a regional wine information centre – not only for locals it seems, but also for those further afield. Only last week we received a query from a UK wine buyer that went as follows:
Greetings! In Austria at the moment for the first MW bootcamp. Just had a talk from Jancis herself! Would I be able to pick your brains on South Africa? Are there any producers changing tack in the way they manage their vineyards after yet another drought? Most of what I have read talks about a renewed celebration of hardier old vines and premiumisation of reduced yields but I’d be interested to know what else is happening ‘on the ground…
To get the best answer I went to the best source – none other than Jaco Engelbrecht, at one time viticulturalist at Darling Cellars, and now one of the most highly regarded viticulturalists in South Africa. (Do follow Jaco’s blog at http://visualviticulture.co.za/blog/):
Hi Charles. I believe there will be a definite drive towards soil health, with special focus on mulching and building organic material. It is a fact that the higher the organic content the higher water holding capacity the soil has. It has always been the talk of the winemakers (they talk a lot), but climate has never pushed us this hard. This is not all bad, and everyone needs to sit down and rethink what they are REALLY busy with and if that is sustainable, given the unpredictable weather patterns. We will have to adapt, not only in the vineyards but in our homes. Water is precious, and without a lot of it in South Africa, we need to work as efficiently with it as possible, and maximise every drop we are blessed with.
I also spoke to internationally renowned Dr Phil Freese and he had anything but doom and gloom for Darling vineyards, which you may know, are predominantly un-irrigated. The irony is that un-irrigated vineyards have an advantage in drought, in that the vines are used to fending for themselves and the older the vines the more “experience” they have in doing so. Granted, this might be the worst year they have ever faced, but nature in its perfection will see that the crop will balance the leaf cover and the yield, and sure, you might get a lesser yield, but that does not assume that the quality will be down.