Harvest 2019 by wine maker Friedrich Kuhne

“The harvest at Welgegund Heritage Wines in Wellington started at the end of January with the picking of the Carignan and Grenache Noir, followed by the Chenin in early February, the Shiraz mid-month and finally the Cinsault towards the end of February.

Reflecting on the harvest and what’s showing in the cellar, I am very optimistic. The 2019 harvest looks very promising and I believe it to be one of our best.  The reds are showing excellent colour with fruit-driven savoury notes, and the Chenin extreme complexity, finesse and purity.

The quality of the fruit, despite some challenging circumstances over the past few years, is testament to our unique fingerprint of terroir and climate and the nature of our very old vines. Planted in the ancient decomposed granite of the foothills, our vines produce intensely flavoured fruit, the breezes funnelling down the valley from the Du Toit’s Kloof Pass moderate the climate, and our old dryland bush vines, especially our ancient blocks of Chenin Blanc (1974) and Cinsault (1974) – both Certified Heritage Vineyards as part of the Old Vines Project – offer low yields of fruit with exceptional concentration and depth of flavour.

Following the extreme drought brought on by lack of winter rain in 2017, we were pleased to receive solid rainfall during the winter of 2018 and the 2018/2019 summer was thankfully cooler than usual. All our vineyards are dryland, meaning no irrigation, which can be very challenging. To counteract the knock-on effect of the three-year drought, we sow cover crops of barley, rye and bitter lupins to act as a moisture safety net and to improve soil quality. Our Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Cinsault and Carignan Block vineyard soils also have a relatively high-clay, and therefore high-moisture, content.

Our wine making philosophy is to craft wines of authenticity and distinction, with intense detail in the vineyards, and minimal intervention in the cellar to allow vineyard and terroir expression, and create wines true to the cultivar. One of the most important factors is getting our harvest dates correct, so, we taste and conduct analyses regularly, and I involve other winemakers to assist me with these decisions. All our fruit is picked by hand into small crates, an extremely labour-intensive exercise when harvesting old bush vines. Gentle winemaking allows the expression of the natural elements bestowed upon Welgegund and careful extraction of aromas, colour and flavour.

We have fermented five different batches of Chenin Blanc, two s in tank, with commercial yeast added, fermenting at cooler temperatures giving off lovely passion fruit, guava, flowers and nectarine peach aromas. We also have three batchs in 500-litre first-fill French oak barrels from different coopers, with fermentation ‘all natural’ to preserve the identity of the old vineyard, resulting in our purest expression of Chenin Blanc, with pear, stone fruit, lime zest, and citrus aromas very evident. A blend of only the best components will go for bottling.

We are also working with different batches of Cinsault to add extra dimension and character to the final blend, including whole bunch fermentation in 500-litre French oak barrels, one part with the stem and the other destemmed, to add to the structure and ensure early oak integration. We also fermented some components in stainless steel tanks to preserve the savoury aromas of the juice. The Cinsault ran half way ‘natural ferment’, with different commercial yeasts added later, enhancing complexity.

Fermentation of our Grenache was also partly natural, with different yeasts added later for desired layering and complexity. A large portion of the wine is being aged unoaked, to retain fresh fruity aromas, with the balance in 2nd and 3rd-fill 500-litre French oak barrels (extremely lightly toasted).

These are exciting times in the cellar, and I am looking forward to an all-round fine offering of Welgegund wines this year: fresh with a wealth of fruit, richness, texture and depth of flavour.”