Delheim Estate: A Tale of Two Harvests

Mar 20, 2024

Delheim Estate: A Tale of Two Harvests

Two separate stages of fast and furious harvesting with a quiet lull in-between characterised Harvest 2024 at Delheim Estate on Stellenbosch’s famed Simonsberg, with a vast variation in yields between white and red varieties, and a singular expression of overall quality throughout the cultivar spectrum.

Delheim Estate: A Tale of Two Harvests

“This year was truly a story of two different harvests rolled into one,” says Lotriet. “Despite the cold winter and heavy rainfall experienced in 2023, mild conditions in spring – and the vines having had a deep dormant slumber in winter – saw early bud-break which extended throughout the growing season. Throw-in the hot conditions Stellenbosch and surrounds experienced in December and early January, and everybody knew we were in for an early harvest, which duly kicked-off for us on 18 January. First in was Pinotage for making rosé, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, as well as the early-ripening Pinotage for our red wine range.”

Yields for white cultivars were, as is the case in most of the Cape winelands, substantially lower, with some varieties being 30% lighter than average. “There was a lot of wind in the Simonsberg during flowering and the early onset of heat in November and December caused the ripening berries to’ shut-down’ at stages. The vineyards carried a lot of bunches, but bunch-weights coming into the cellar were substantially lower. Looking at the denseness of the canopies, one can see that the plants shoved a lot of energy into the growing these verdant vineyard curtains instead of fleshing-out the grapes themselves.”

However, says Lotriet, slight as it may have been, the juice had extraordinary chemistry. “When you have high acids and sugars in white grapes, it is a winemaker’s dream,” he says. “Each variety expressed itself in an upfront, visceral manner – from the pressed juice, through fermentation and now in the young wines resting on lees. In light of the lower yields, I can use the cliché of less is more, but prefer to just say that as far as quality of the wine wines is concerned, 2024 has thus far been phenomenal in terms of quality.”

The last white grapes, Chenin Blanc, arrived in the Delheim cellar on 8 February. And with the red varieties ripening to their normal schedule, Lotriet says he and his team had a two-week lull in the cellar with no grapes coming in, allowing all eyes to focus on the fermentation and racking of white wines.

“I had never experienced this during a harvest season before, having down-time to manage the ferments and grapes without bins waiting to be off-loaded at the harvest-bay,” he says.

The first small batches of Merlot began arriving on 15 February, but the Delheim red wine harvest only began in full-swing a week later with Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon being picked.

“And then we were onto the second harvest-within-a-harvest,” says Lotriet. “With the red varieties ripening as per normal their yields were actually up 30% on the annual average. Down 30% on whites, up 30% on reds – if that is not two different harvests in one, I don’t know what is.”

Lotriet says all red varieties, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, are showing typical Simonsberg noble red cultivar character. “Grapes gained phenolic ripeness, opulent sugars and firm acids with the thick skins giving garnet colours and muscular, yet silky tannins.”

The last red grapes were harvested on 7 March. But, it is not all over on Delheim as Lotriet and team wait for the onset of botrytis – noble rot – in the Riesling vineyard used for the making of Delheim’s famous Edelspatz wine. “Conditions are favourable for botrytis, but it will still be a few weeks whether we know if it sets-in,” says Lotriet. “It could be as late as May or early June, but is something truly in the hands of the wine gods.”