A BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF THE VINEYARDS
With the coming of spring and the onset of summer in 2016, there was plenty of concern about the 2017 vintage. “The concern developed into worry by early January as farmers contemplated the consequences of three hot, dry years,” reflects DGB’s group winemaker JC Bekker. 2016 was a tough year, particularly in the warmer areas where there was no supplementary irrigation and crop yields were down by between 40 and 60% – even worse in parts of those districts that were hardest hit, such as places in the Swartland and Darling. Surely 2017 would be worse? After all, the water levels of the major dams in the Cape winelands were lower than the year before...
As it turned out, however, 2017 has many winemakers excited about what could well turn out to be a vintage as good as 2015... 2014 was one of the wettest vintages on record; 2015 was one of the best; 2016 one of the hottest and driest ever; 2017 was dry but without being as hot as 2016, and the vine continues to amaze with its powers of resilience and recovery.
“We had 20% less rainfall than our long-term average figure,” reports DGB viticulturist Stephan Joubert, “yet there was still 20% more winter rainfall in 2016 than (in 2015) for the 2016 vintage.” Hard to believe for some, but it’s true: “This vintage we had 80% of what is regarded as the normal annual rainfall.” This was good enough to ensure that we started the season with a relatively wet subsoil.
Although November to March were warm months, the growing period and harvest didn’t include any heat waves to speak of – sure there were occasional spikes, but the extremes weren’t prolonged. According to Bekker, December and January and the nights in general were cooler than towards the end of 2015 and the first few months of 2016. “The quality is really good. You could taste it in the vineyard from January onwards – no matter where we got the grapes from.”