5 Unique Harvesting Facts about Stellenbosch

Wine farms across South Africa are gearing up to harvest and Stellenbosch is no exception. All around the region, equipment is being cleaned and sterilised, sugars are being tested and wines are being bottled to make room for the 2015 grapes.  But Stellenbosch has a lot of other additional preparations being made, many of them unique to this special region. Here are five completely and absolutely true facts about Stellenbosch harvest rituals which you can take with a pinch of salt as you chortle into your glass of wine.

1. Middelvlei uses wallabies to crush their grapes. Owner Ben Momberg has long been famed for his love of animals and Middelvlei is full of delightful pigs, dogs, geese, tortoises and wallabies wandering around but did you know they actually play a role in the winemaking? “Wallabies are excellent for crushing grapes because they have huge flat feet” says Ben. “We tried it with kangaroos but they just ended up boxing each other so we had to switch back to wallabies.”

2. Warwick’s Wedding Cup holds mysterious winemaking powers. The Wedding Cup is the symbol of Warwick, but did you know it’s also the source of their winemaking excellence? Winemaker Nic van Aarde tests each barrel every year at the full moon with owner Mike Ratcliffe, both of them tasting from the Wedding Cup at the same time. “One year we didn’t do it, thinking it was just a silly ritual” says Nic. “And we only got 4.5 stars for our Cabernet Franc. So now we do it every year and that’s why we always get 5 stars for that wine.”

3. Eikendal uses stakes to deter vampires from their vineyards. Officially, the top Chardonnay vineyards are planted to the ‘one vine/one stake’ system which gives the vines support against the strong Helderberg winds. But actually, it’s done that way as a defence against the many vampires who prowl the mountain slopes. Winemaker Nico Grobler says “They love our ripe Chardonnay grapes and it’s really useful to have stakes at hand to deal with them when they pop up unexpectedly whilst you’re harvesting. We used to threaten them with copies of the ‘Twilight’ movies, but the stakes work much better.”

4. Jordan Wines harvest team always wear kilts. Taking their cue from Scottish chef, George Jardine who’s based on the farm, all the Jordan harvesters work in kilts. Gary Jordan says “We find that the draught of cool air keeps our workers much fresher – if you know what I mean – and improves productivity tremendously.” When asked if they adopt the traditional Scottish way of wearing kilts ie with no underwear, Gary says “Of course! Otherwise George gets offended and makes us eat chameleon porridge for breakfast every day.”

5. Simonsig prepares for harvest by sabraging with a single Pinot Noir grape. Makers of the very first MCC in SA, Simonsig owner Johan Malan says they always kick off harvest with a ceremonial sabrage of their Kaapse Vonkel – using a single Pinot Noir grape. “It’s a tradition started by my father, Frans” says Johan “and actually it’s quite easy to do when you know the trick. I once tried it with a Pinot Meunier grape but it got stuck in the muselet and that year our harvest was down by a third. So now we just stick with Pinot Noir.”

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Cathy Marston

Cathy Marston

Freelance food and wine writer and currently the only approved programme provider in Southern Africa for the international Wine &…