How do cultivar and terroir impact the harvest?

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The Winelands are all a buzz of excitement as the grapes enter into their final stretches of ripening, the 2022 harvest season has begun. In South Africa, this season is generally from January to April, and there is much that dictates when berries are ripe and ready to be picked. The two main factors are a cultivars lifecycle and the impact of terroir, let’s take a closer look at these.

All grapevines have the same general lifecycle, but each cultivar is unique in reaching ripeness. This relates to how vigorously the vine grows, its leaf character, bunch size and shape, as well as the thickness of the berry skins. All of these come together to point to whether the cultivar ripens early, mid or late in the season.

Terroir is the combination of climate, location, soil and aspect to name the major facets, and directly impact the vines natural growing and ripening process. The fundamentals that enable ripening are sunlight hours and temperature. These cause the sugars, acids and tannins to change making the winemaker’s and viticulturist’s jobs a balancing act to find the perfect moment to harvest.

Together, these are taken into consideration in selecting what cultivars are grown where and then in planning a good harvest season.

At Paserene the wines are made from grapes grown in warm Tulbagh, cool Elgin and moderate Franschhoek, each needing different considerations in ensuring ripe berries.

One of the first to be harvested is Chardonnay followed by Sauvignon Blanc, like what is grown in Franschhoek and Elgin. The management of the Franschhoek vines is different to the vines grown in Elgin. Elgin’s cooler temperature slows ripening which means more care is taken to remove leaves to expose the bunches to sunlight to ensure ripe fruit. Whereas Franschhoek is more of a balancing act of seasonal temperature patterns and exposure to the sun. The Paserene Chardonnay captures the Elgin cool climate while the Bright represents Franschhoek Chardonnay, the Emerald brings these two climates’ characters together through Sauvignon Blanc.

In Tulbagh, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Carignan, and Mourvèdre are grown for Paserene which are all considered mid to late-season cultivars. However, the warm climate encourages them to be ready at mid-season, mostly from the second half of February. The concern in a warm climate is that the berries will ripen too quick which would result in unbalanced acid, sugar and unripe tannins which give a bitter green flavour. To remedy this, leaf management is carefully done to allow enough shade on the bunches to cool and steady the ripening process. The Marathon and Midnight are two representations of Tulbagh Cab Sauv and the Union a blend of Syrah, Carignan, and Mourvèdre.

During this exciting time, come experience the buzz at the Nest, Paserene’s tasting lounge in picturesque Franschhoek. This is the perfect place to be seen and experience the best of these unique regions.

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Monday to Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm

the paserene swallow at paserene tasting lounge one of the top wine tasting near franschhoek in cape town

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