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“Although it’s early days, the 2015 vintage may just turn out to be on par with 2007, the best vintage I’ve ever been part of.”

This high praise coupled with great expectations comes from Charles Hopkins, cellar master of De Grendel Wines. A veteran of 30 vintages, Charles sees so much potential in both the reds and whites that he can’t get into the cellar early enough in the mornings to taste the evolution of the wines.

One milestone has already been met. “For the first time in the history of De Grendel we broke through the 600 ton threshold, harvesting 630 tons.”

Charles looks back on the conditions, both favourable and challenging, contributing to the benchmark year.

The growing season was very mild and budding was normal. The flowering stage is one of the big concerns in the vineyard, as windy conditions can blow a lot of pollen. This in turn influences crop size.

By January, however, the very dry weather conditions were a big challenge. There was no prospects for rain. Fortunately De Grendel comes prepared for these dry conditions falling back on supplementary irrigation. Harnessing cutting-edge technology in the vineyard the water needs can be pinpointed per vine per block. (This technology also benefits optimum water usage in the growing season.)

The farm’s prime location is another factor that works in its favour. De Grendel vineyards are only 7 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean, with moisture-laden coastal mists and cooling breezes protecting the vines in dry conditions.

The Durbanville wine region is prized for the great water holding capacity of its ancient blue shale-derived soils, mostly Oakleafs, Glen Rosa and Mispas types.

The year will also be remembered for the ‘early birth’ of the crop. When the sugars were first measured from mid-January on, the crop signalled loud and clear that we had to prepare for an earlier-than-normal harvest.

It was apparent early on that the crop would be lower than the previous year. On average the crop is 7% down from last year.

When some of the juices on last year’s varieties were analysed it showed that the nitrogen levels were lower. This reflected in the vineyards too with less vigorous growth. Clusters and berries were smaller, which is definitely a plus for red wine colour and quality.

With past experience, armed with the facts, figures and analysis of modern winemaking, Hopkins’ well-developed vintner’s instinct indicates that all the varieties, from the MCCs and the  Noble Late Harvest to the heaviest of Cabernets, will be of exceptional quality.

May 21, 2015