Having successfully made our first wine in 2011 we thought the hard lessons had been learnt and that the 2012 Witkrans wines would be a doddle – well how wrong we were.
The Uilkraals valley’s baboons and birds once again got fat on the fruits of our hard labour and come harvest time not a single grape had been left for wine making. We watched as Dirty Dave, the Alpha male baboon, carefully leopard (or is it baboon) crawled under the electric fence using his thick coat to insulate him from the wire and bounded off with hands and underarms overflowing with ripe grapes. He also regularly ripped the bird netting open to get at the grapes creating entrances for the Valley’s birds that seem to congregate around our vineyard during February each year. I have no doubt that our grapes are far tastier than the valleys natural fynbos and thicket berries so can’t really blame them.
Final score: Baboons 40%, Uilkraals birds 60%, Privett’s 0%.
Fortunately our friend and neighbour Wayne Gabb who is a very successful wine farmer felt pity on us and allowed us to go and pick a few rows of Shiraz that were left after his teams had finished harvesting. Together with Eddy and Sylvana, our kids in tow, we headed off after work and picked a tonne of grapes returning late to Eddies garage with our treasured pickings.
The next day we borrowed a de-stemmer from another friend and successful commercial grape farmer Jan Malan and after de-stemming, stomped the grapes with our bare feet and poured the juice and skins into our 1000l Jo-Jo plastic tank. Having fermented for a few days the sugars successfully converted to alcohol and it was time for pressing. Our hired press was collected all the way from Wellington, the skins removed and the wine-to-be transferred to our 1000l stainless steel tank. The garage was cleaned and all the equipment put away or returned. Then disaster struck….while Eddy and family headed off to town his gardener decided to take the families beach buggy for a jaunt down the driveway. Needless to say his parking skills require fine tuning and he managed to smack our tank and re-decorate Eddies garage will 1000l of freshly picked, de-stemmed, fermented and pressed shiraz!
Somewhat downhearted but undefeated, we were back on the phone to our neighbours the following day and managed to source what must have been some of the last of the seasons grapes left on Overberg vines – a ton of Shiraz and a ton of Cabernet. A second fermentation tank was purchased, equipment sourced and wine making take two for 2012 commenced. Harvesting late means lots of sugars and therefore lots of alcohol. But hey beggars can’t be choosers and we now have two stainless steel tanks of yummy red wine ready for bottling. We are particularly proud of our Shiraz and plan to mature some in oak barrels over the next year.
On Witkrans we made the very tough decision during the winter to remove our Cabernet vines and replace them with a Pinotage block. The idea being to grow bush Pinotage, which we are planning to cover completely with bird and baboon proof wire. We have hung on to our Merlot block and put all the anti-bird and baboon fortifications in place. The vines are laden with ripening grapes and we are awaiting the annual baboon and bird ground and air assault. Watch this space………………………