Harvest 2011 - A Gratifying Vintage

 

As we wait in anticipation for the harvest each year, we always speculate and trust that the weather plays along and besides that we also hope that no mechanical gremlins creep into the cellar to cause a multitude of technical problems.

A Warm and Dry Vintage

Initially we thought 2011 would be a very short harvest. It started off slightly later for us and due to some extremely hot spells towards the end of February we anticipated that it would end a lot earlier than usual. This would have made things very difficult in the cellar as one only has so many hours within a day to process the grapes.
Fortunately the weather did play along and with some patience did cool down, even providing us with a few light showers to alleviate some of the heat stress on the later Cabernet Sauvignon varieties.
Our Swartland fruit, that provides the beautiful richness for the Dornier Chenin blanc as well as a major component for the Donatus white blend could not have had better conditions in which to ripen. As the vineyard is farmed organically (no chemical sprays) we rely heavily on the weather to 

facilitate the disease prevention leading up to harvest. Good rains early in January seemed to provide just enough moisture to allow the grapes to ripen up until early February. At times we were a bit concerned by the prevailing dry conditions but it appears these vines are tougher than we think.

Attention to Detail and a New Variety

This year we also worked meticulously within certain blocks with a particular goal in mind. A block of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot got some extra special attention. We rigorously removed any unwanted bunches early on that we found not living up to our standards along with opening up the bunch zone to allow maximum amounts of sunlight to penetrate the bunches and thereby ripening the bunch optimally. All this hard work paid off with the resultant fruit being of excellent quality.
In the 

cellar we were accompanied by a French Intern whose parents own a small Chateau just outside St. Emillion.  She added some great ideas and perspective which is always valuable.
This year also saw us doing a lot more whole bunch pressing and in particular on the Chenin blanc. This is a lot slower process but the effect on the quality and quantity of juice is considerable.This year also gave us two new challenges within the cellar.
Firstly we harvest and fermented our maiden vintage of Tempranillo, a variety widely grown and native to Spain and often referred to as Spain’s noble grape. True to its name which is derived from the Spanish word temprano, meaning early, it was one of the earliest grapes to enter the cellar.
So far the potential looks very promising and we envisage a small single varietal bottling in the not too distant future.
Secondly, and this is more of a record than anything else, we harvested 47.8 tons on one single day and managed to process the entire amount before the following day. This might not sound ground breaking but if you take into account that our total production over the 37 days was 438 tons which amounts to 11% in one day!

First Impressions of the Quality

With the harvest now over and the evaluation of our fruits complete we can safely say that we are very impressed with the quality and are also somewhat amazed by the quality of the younger blocks. Our newly over-grafted Malbec, high density Cabernet franc and obviously our Tempranillo all faired very well.
We have also been very busy blending the 2009 wines which are due for bottling in July.
The Donatus Red 2009 looks very promising. Usually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet franc, this year sees the inclusion for the first time of our prize Malbec block.
Another blend that we will be re-introducing is the Dornier Cabernet/Merlot 2009.  We are tremendously proud of the 2009 which offers lots of fruit and a really full palate with supple tannins.

JC Steyn
Dornier Winemaker
June 2011