An entire year’s growth and hard work comes down to the grape’s readiness to determine the beginning of the harvest. An instrument called Refractometer, is used to measure sugar levels, named balling. Fred Ruest, the owner of Kyburg Boutique Wines, spends many hours collecting grapes from different areas of the vineyard to measure the balling. Once the grapes show a reading close to his satisfaction, he requests a more accurate reading of sugar, pH and acid levels by taking samples to the laboratory for measurement.
However, no instrument or device is available to measure tannin levels. Tasting by an experienced winemaker with its skilled pallet is the only way to determine tannin satisfaction. Our winemaker, Jacques Fourie and experts from our clients arrive regularly before harvest. They walk down the rows, pick some grapes, look at the pips and chew on the skin to assess the tannins. Based on the tannins and on the style of wine one wishes to produce and of course keeping a close eye on the weather, the days of harvest are determined.
Did you know?
Kyburg Boutique Wines consists of 17 hectares of vines and produces about 160 tons of grapes. Yet, only 20% of the grapes are used to produce our own label, which gives us an annual production of 25’000 bottles. The balance of grapes is sold to various reputable wine estates in the Devon Valley and in the wider Stellenbosch area.
Very hot weather was experienced throughout this summer, with day temperatures reaching 40 degrees. Accordingly, the harvest started two weeks earlier. The Merlot grapes were the first varietal to be picked, at the beginning of February. At 6am on a picking day, when the morning air is still crisp and fresh, a 50 people strong harvest team arrives and the vineyard comes to life. The air is buzzing with chitter and chatter amongst the workers as they prepare for their task. The foreman allocates the area and rows to be harvested, organises the people accordingly and picking starts straight away.
In a short time the 20kg crates are full of grapes and are carried out from the rows by allocated carriers. Fred is located right there where the crates are loaded onto the trailer. Here he does a final check for leaves and undesired bunches of grapes before the grapes are dipped into 500kg bins and transported to the cellar by the Red Pick Up ‘53.
We do believe that handpicking is a much gentler way of handling the grapes than by a mechanical harvester and is the best quality control. “You only pick what you would eat” is a simple but effective rule and understood by all. We at Kyburg Boutique Wines also believe strongly, in uplifting the local community by creating jobs.
20 to 25 tons of Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are harvested in a day. At mid-day, on the 29. March, the Red Pick-Up’ 53 leaves the farm with its final load of grapes. To celebrate this event, a surprise harvest lunch for the farm workers had been served. The joy was overwhelming and contagious!
In this spirit and acknowledging all the hard work by our team including the viticulturist, winemaker and farm contractors, the 2016 harvest at Kyburg Boutique Wines came to an end. We are confident, that with all the care given to the vineyard throughout the year and the grapes harvested at its best, the wines produced will again be of a high standard and will be enjoyed by many people in different countries around the world.
With this, we send you many regards,
The Kyburg Team