Since our first vintage, Haute Cabrière has specialised in the exploration of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. At our home in the Franschhoek Wine Valley, we have always believed that a fine wine begins in the vineyard because great wines are grown.
The Franschhoek Valley is surrounded by mountains on three sides and receives late morning and lingering evening sunlight. In the vineyards, this translates to slow and balanced ripening of the grapes, which leads to fruit-forward flavour profiles in the resulting wines. A higher-than-average rainfall and a cooler temperature than neighbouring regions contribute a refined minerality to our Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs for balanced elegance on the palate. All of these elements come together as unique characteristics from the terroir of the valley, the fingerprint of Franschhoek wines.
This year, we are excited about what our vineyards hold for our next vintage of Haute Cabrière wines. For us, Chardonnay is a varietal that showcases the possibility, character and diversity of a vintage as a much-loved ‘winemaker’s grape’, while Pinot Noir shows the resilience, soul and depth of a vintage as ‘the heartbreak grape’.
In 2023, the earlier-than-usual harvest was due to a very mild winter in the Cape Winelands, which initiated bud burst and the start of the growing season 3 weeks earlier than the previous season. The heavy rain and cooler conditions in December further sped up the ripening of the grapes. Our team at Haute Cabrière has started picking the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes for our 2023 vintage weeks ahead of our usual schedule showing how nature defines the course of our wines, more than people do.
We caught up with our Cellar Master, Tim Hoek, this week to hear his thoughts on harvests past and present…
Q&A with Cellar Master Tim Hoek:
How many harvests have you been a part of at Haute Cabrière?
2023 marks harvest lucky 9 number for me, and my first as Cellar Master.
What can we expect from the 2023 harvest and what are you most looking forward to this year?
It appears to be quite an early, condensed vintage so we anticipate all the grapes will need to be harvested in a short time frame for optimal fruit. With that in mind, I’m expecting long days in the vineyards and cellar with short nights of sleep during the peak of it haha. The Pinot Noir grapes are looking especially phenomenal this year.
What is your favourite part of being a Cellar Master?
The way you experience and shape everything from the grape to the wine, and then engage with customers is a dynamic opportunity which is both exciting and rewarding. It is unbelievable how interactive the wine industry is.
What are your favourite memories from the past year?
Participating in the first Cape Wine in 4 years was a high point, so much effort was put into it and it was great seeing everyone again after the isolation of the pandemic. Then the official release of our Réserve Range with the new Chardonnay Réserve was a highlight of my career.
On average how much time do you spend on the estate during harvest?
Over the past 9 years, the average is around 8 weeks of working 7 days a week for me, but Sundays are normally just quick visits to check on ferments and to do some additions. For us as a team, a standard harvest week is between 70-80 hours. It really does take a lot of passion to want to work in this industry, and the reward of a harvest well done is a satisfaction that is felt in every muscle and bone with an immense sense of pride.
While we enjoy the sights of harvest from the terrace, which wine should we be drinking?
Nothing beats a chilled glass of Pinot Noir Rosé on a hot summer day. But if you are enjoying a charcuterie and cheese board, then the Unwooded Pinot Noir, served slightly chilled, is a winner for me.
What is your favourite wine in our portfolio and why?
The Chardonnay Réserve is the perfect showcase of the quality wines that appellation Franschhoek can produce. It is structured, lightly wooded, and fruit forward, needless to say it ticks all the right boxes. Our Old Vine Certified Haute Collection Amphora Chardonnay is also very high on my “all-time favourites” list.
Which wine do you think will be top of the barrel this year?
We have just released the 2019 Pinot Noir Réserve, and I believe it expresses the 2019 vintage very well. I am expecting it to do great things.
How do you and your team plan on celebrating the end of this year’s harvest?
The “Oes-Af” celebration is always a great get-together, everyone that played a small part in the harvest gets together, raises a glass to another amazing vintage in the books and then we have a few awards to hand out. My personal favourite is the “Oom Sakkie” Award, which goes out to the person who made the biggest (nothing detrimental) mistake. It is normally getting the tractor so stuck it needs 4 tractors to pull it out, or getting the hose pipe so tangled that it takes a knife and a few cuts to get it out. It allows us to look at the funnier side of harvest and relive the light-hearted bits that flew by so quickly.
Keep your eye out for our upcoming blogs as we will continue to keep you updated on our 2023 harvest. We are looking forward to seeing what this harvest holds.
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