Challenging conditions led to a reduced wine grape crop for South African producers in 2017, but grapes were healthy and concentrated flavours promise good wines. The winter started off late in most of the regions but the weather conditions were cold enough to break dormancy. Spring came on time and the weather conditions were ideal which led to good, even bud burst. The summer weather was warm, which restricted the growth and constituted lower bunch masses and smaller berries. However, the dry conditions led to the vineyards and grapes being very healthy overall. Smaller berries led to more concentrated colour and flavour on the positive side and good wines are expected from the 2017 harvest. The harvest period started a week earlier than normal due to the warmer weather, but did not affect the quality of the grapes arriving at the winery. The white wines from the 2017 vintage appear astoundingly good, with great structure and good flavours.
The 2017 harvest season will be remembered as the drought season. At Ernie Els Wines, we are very blessed to have bountiful water on the Helderberg. We were however still careful with our water use during the summer months leading up to harvest. We've also been working hard to adapt our viticultural techniques during the past 3 years to help the vineyards cope optimally with the heat and limited irrigation. The drought was further buffered by a surprisingly and fancifully cooler season. Due to the somewhat buffered circumstances the vines reacted gracefully to the drought with no abnormal growth patterns observed. Vine canopies were kept nice and thin for sunlight of course less leaves means less water needed. Vines are resilient plants and their natural instinct in drier years is to produce smaller bunches with smaller berries. Small berries are usually the start of a great wine and 2018 was no different. The white wines from the 2017 vintage appear to have great vintage specific concentration.