HARVEST REPORT 2022
Updated: Jun 1
Harvest 2022 was loaded with ups and downs. Many of them. But in pausing to reflect on that notion, I feel like that tends to be a theme every year. As a general observation, the season was characterised by some severe disease pressure from both downy and powdery mildew that tested organic farmers and their resilience, and after a serious spike in temperatures in early February, grapes came in hard and fast, and almost all at once.
This year, Yo El Rey increased production from 4 tons (3500 bottles) to about 7 tons of fruit (6200 bottles). 2022 was a year where I really wanted to start tightening up things, both on the sourcing of fruit, as well as on production front. The nature of the production of Yo El Rey is always going to be unorthodox. I live in London, swing back to South Africa for harvest, source the best fruit I can, and then barrel down and get back to Blighty. It means things need to run as smooth and as best they can when I am on the ground. And that means being as organised as possible.
Production was moved to a new home in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley at Seven Springs, and this year, we have three new wines in the pipeline joining the range. Firstly, a direct press Syrah made from fruit grown by Tabby and Alex over in Stanford. Both are super passionate farmers who work organically across all their crop and livestock agri. The direct press Syrah is going to be interesting. Somewhere between a really light red and a dark rosé, I’m yet to peg exactly how I am going to frame it, but the colour on it was absolutely stunning when it went to barrel.
Then, we have a skin-contact Muscat d’Alexandria. It’s my first time working with this grape variety, and here we racked up the mileage on the road a bit, having to drive through to the Breedekloof to pick this fruit up from a Meneer Kowie Stofberg. The history on this farm is incredible, and although it’s sadly not organic fruit at the moment, Kowie is very open to the conversation and idea of conversion. The fruit was all sorted on the sorting line, destemmed, crushed and then fermented on the skins in plastic bins for about 5 days before being pressed to old oak barrels.
Lastly, I had a bit of a curve ball thrown my way when the Syrah block we were supposed to pick from for the red cuvée fell through just a few days out from needing to pick. It was a disappointing blow, but it meant I had to act fast. It seemed serendipitous then that the Grenache block in Bot River that I had used for the red blend in vintage 2018 and 2019 had 3 tons of fruit going. So we swooped in and nabbed it. Everything was destemmed and fermented on the skins in plastic bins until dry, before being pressed to old oak again.
Overall, I’m really chuffed with what I managed to get done in a very short space of time this year. And besides the fact that I caught Covid just before I was meant to head back to London, I think overall, vintage 2022 was a great success, and I can’t wait to see how these wines take shape. A very special thanks to Alex McFarlane and her husband Wayne van den Heuvel who were amazing support, and who continue to keep an eye on the wines whilst I’m away.