As our talented white wines winemaker since November 2021, Danielle Coetsee has certainly settled into her role at the Boschendal cellar. Named the ‘2020 Woman Winemaker of the Year’, Danielle is responsible for crafting all Boschendal white wines, including the flagships of Elgin Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, which are consistently rated as some of the best white wines in South Africa. With her goal to elevate Boschendal’s reputation for premium white wines, Danielle had her work cut out for her with the 2022 harvest.
“Exhilarating and challenging,” opens Danielle when describing the past few months. “Harvest started in the third week of January with Pinot Noir grapes that we took in for our Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend. We’re still bringing grapes in daily, with a view to ending in April with the grapes for the Noble Late Harvest wine.”
According to Danielle, the weather leading up to harvest included a late and long winter, which slowed down growth. “A prolonged winter is good to a certain degree, as it increases the concentration of the grapes and encourages thicker skins on the berries,” explains Danielle. This said, when the heat waves started warming up the Winelands in January, the stakes grew higher. All at once, a few cultivars ripened at the same time, meaning crunch time for bringing in the grapes over a period of two weeks in February. Thankfully, with five harvests under her belt, Danielle was able to orchestrate the vineyard and cellar team as only a skilled maestro can.
At the moment, the team has harvested most of the varieties used in the production of Boschendal white wines, including Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Verdelho, Sauvignon Blanc Roussanne and Marsanne. The remaining Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc as well as Viognier, Weisser Riesling and Colombar are starting to come in from the cooler climate vineyards in Stellenbosch and Elgin. According to Danielle, the yields are on par with the previous two years.
“We saw heavier bunches this year. We found free run juice to be quite generous on some cultivars, but then on the total yield, we were down by about 20 – 30 litres per ton on certain batches. That means that our yields were in line with previous harvests, showing good concentration and flavours early on in fermentation,” says Danielle. “Keep your eyes peeled on our Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, which are already reflecting the vibrancy of the vintage!”
With the philosophy of innovation and excellence at the forefront of every action in the Boschendal cellar, Danielle and the white wine team have also been experimenting with new equipment to further improve quality. This includes using a new vibrating table for grape sorting and introducing a Willmes press. This pneumatic grape press is used to whole-bunch press Chardonnay in a more sustainable way.
“For me, harvest 2022 was challenging in all the right ways,” ends Danielle. “It’s this kind of work that makes me jump out of bed every morning – even if that’s at 2 am!”