It is winemaker Altus Treurnicht's 1st season at Delheim, and we checked up on the harvest progress with him during this Q & A session:
Q: After the recent Simonsberg fires, there's been a lot of talk about smoke taint in this year's wines - how are you handling this threat in the cellar?
A: The problem with the smoke is that it gets absorbed by the phenolic compounds in the skins of the berries. Therefore we were very intent on minimising skin contact. This meant very delicate whole-bunch pressing of all our white grapes (no crushing and de-stemming), resulting in lower juice recoveries. Temperatures had to be monitored strictly - the cooler the better, for higher temperatures result in higher extractions from the skins. Free run juice and press juice were always kept seperately. A full assesment will be done after fermentation to establish the extent of the impact, but we are confident that the preventative measures we took would have done the trick. The reds weren't affected at all due to their location on our sister property, Vera Cruz, which wasn't influenced by the smoke from the fire.
Q: What has surprised you the most about Delheim?
A: There is a culture of exploring different avenues during the winemaking process, by looking at things from an alternative perspective, an opportunity to express some artistic flair. This is really exciting for me!
Q: Which varieties are you excited about the most? Have you worked with this variety before?
A: There is a block of Chardonnay on the Vera Cruz property known as "Akkerboom", which I feel has wonderful flavour intensity. At Meerlust it was one of my main varieties I worked with, so I'm very excited to continue making great Chardonnays from these vineyards. I also loved the Chenin Blanc from the Delheim property, and as I haven't worked much with this variety before, I can't wait to see the results. The quality of Shiraz from the Vera Cruz farm, especially the "Skooltjie" bushvines, has opened my eyes with respect to the potential of this variety. I also learned a lot about Pinotage, and how to manage its short fermentation periods - it was quite scary to see how it literally runs away from you!
Q: What were your overall impressions of the quality, crop size and flavour intensity of this year's harvest?
A: Due to the lower recoveries on the white grapes, volumes will obviously be slighlty less than last year, but no such issues on the reds. The initial dry conditions did hasten the ripening, with some irregular patterns showing in some vineyards. While it is still too early to make a final judgement, I'm positive that the overall quality will be good, with great extraction and flavour intensity on most of the wines.