19 Feb Pop a Cork to Harvest 2019
Despite all the long-hours, sweat and hard-work, there is something magical about the harvest season. For us in the cork industry, it lies in the satisfaction of seeing the just-cut bark from the cork oaks arriving at our plants in southern Portugal to be processed. It smells of earth and fresh wood, a truly natural product from wild forests, each tree stripped of its bark every nine years.
While the cork oaks are now resting in the European winter, it is time to harvest the grapes in the Cape winelands, and as partners to the wine industry, we at Amorim experience some of the pleasure and satisfaction those at the wineries have during this exciting time.
Driving around, you smell that it is harvest time. That wonderful feral aroma of fermenting grapes hangs in the air, the southerly breezes carrying the smell throughout the winelands. From early morning the roads between Stellenbosch, Paarl, Malmesbury, Franschhoek and Robertson are filled with trucks bearing loads of just-picked golden-green and purple-black grapes. How satisfying must it not be for the winemakers to handle, feel and taste these juicy bunches that they have been nurturing in the vineyards, seen growing and develop from flowering to berry-set; veraison to that critical period just before picking.
And then, crushing these grapes and seeing the magical process happen where sugars turn to alcohol, sweet juice into expressive wines.
By all accounts, vintage 2019 has been on the trickier side. There has been uneven ripening due to a cool, windy spring offset by a few hot days. Yields, too, are down, as Vinpro reported recently. Despite the wet winter, the previous four years of drought have taken their toll on the vines who are not quite back to optimum functioning.
But what you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts. Winemakers have been telling us about the superb chemistry of the grapes and in the young wines. And yes, some of the wines from this year will be bottled by the end of this month, something the cork industry looks forward to playing a part in.
Harvests vary from year to year. But to be a partner to the wine industry, well, for us that makes every year a good year.