De Grendel Harvest Report 2022: Largest harvest to date, early indications of excellence
De Grendel’s 2022 harvest has set a record for the largest intake to date but, more than quantity, it is the early signs of excellent quality that have the De Grendel winemaking team in optimistic spirits about the new vintage.
With De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc 2022 already bottled and the rest of the 2022 vintage in various stages of maturation in the cellar, De Grendel cellar master Charles Hopkins and assistant winemaker Morgan Steyn reflected on the high points and challenges of harvest 2022.
“Overall, the experience from growing season through to harvest was very good, and the quality of the harvest was above what we would consider average.
“Late winter and spring rains in the area were very beneficial, ensuring good soil moisture. Unfortunately, we experienced unexpected heat spikes over three consecutive weekends in January. This was our greatest challenge, and quite critical since it took place during the ripening process, leading to slightly lower acid concentrations in the grapes.
“Fortunately though, we are blessed at De Grendel with the cooling effect of the nearby ocean which off-set the extreme heat spikes and our grapes were still excellent,” said Hopkins.
While it’s too early to call the quality of the reds of 2022, said Steyn, the team are pleased with the quality of Shiraz grapes from a new vineyard in Stellenbosch as well as the first Shiraz harvest from grafted young vines on De Grendel – boding well for De Grendel Shiraz 2022.
Innovation adding new dimensions
After making waves in 2021 with the maiden vintage of Op die Berg Syrah 2019, which earned a Platter’s 5* rating straight out of the gate, De Grendel is not planning any new additions in 2022.
However, Steyn said patrons can expect subtle differences in the 2019 and 2020 Op die Berg Syrah due to picking at lower sugar concentration and introducing whole-bunch fermentation.
“This new style will truly be a great reflection of the area and I believe it will be even better than the maiden vintage,” Hopkins added.
He said other innovations in the De Grendel cellar were also looking promising – including a newly-acquired ceramic pot for skin-fermentation of Semillon which, along with amphora-fermented Semillon, will form the heart of the 2022 Winifred white blend.
“We also went back to our oldest block of Merlot and did a meticulous job of thinning out the crop and removing of larger bunches. This block was vinified in a funnel pressure method to create a more reserved style of Merlot.
“It is still early days, but we are excited about the additional dimensions to be brought to our wines with these new techniques,” said Steyn.
Low latitude and high altitude quality
Hopkins said the harvests from maritime Elim near Africa’s southernmost tip at Cape Agulhas, home of the vineyards for De Grendel’s acclaimed Elim Shiraz, and the Ceres plateau some 300km inland and nearly a kilometre above sea level, also showed exceptional quality.
“The conditions at Op die Berg are continental and well-suited to our Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards planted there, and the heat spikes early in the season had very little effect. The long hanging time, the vineyard management, balanced crop and the chemical compositions of the grapes in the area is really amazing and led to an exceptional crop for 2022.
“There is definitely merit in planting vines in new high-altitude areas. Unfortunately, wine grape production will always have to compete against the production of other fruit in the area, so the Op die Berg wines will always be made in relatively smaller quantities, which makes them all the more special,” Hopkins said.
As for Elim, a small but important part of the De Grendel vineyard portfolio, Hopkins said the remote area came with unique challenges: “The Elim region is always quite tricky for wine grape production since the vineyards are south-facing and strongly influenced by cold fronts that move around Cape Point.
“Unpredicted rainfall is also common in the area and the vineyards are hammered by strong winds. The risk of bird damage has made it necessary for the canopy to be covered by nets. But overall, it was still one of the best years in terms of chemical composition for the Elim Shiraz.”
What to expect from De Grendel vintage 2022?
Hopkins and Steyn agree that the first wine bottled from this harvest, the 2022 De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc, is a great indication of what the vintage can provide.
“In my opinion, the Sauvignon Blanc is exceptional, showing a great balance between green and tropical flavours.
“It is a true reflection of not only De Grendel but also the Cape Mediterranean climate. I strongly believe that great wines will follow,” said Hopkins.
In the vineyards, Hopkins said the most important development was the recent appointment of new vineyard manager Pierre Carstens.
“Pierre has a wealth of experience and we are looking forward to seeing his impact on our vineyard management, which has been key to the consistent quality of our wines,” he said.