Thursday, February 24, 2011

Where is the cool climates of the Cape Winelands?

The temperatures in summer can go well above 40*C in the Cape Winelands. During the last six years, since I started working for Rietvallei Estate, there has always been this stigma/myth about Robertson being too HOT. I finished my last three years of High School in Robertson (not going to give my age away) and my parents lived there till 2006 so I have enough experience about living in the Robertson Valley. Since 1999 I have lived in Stellenbosch, with a two year break in 2003 and 2004 when I played rugby in Canada and New Zealand. So I would say that my point of reference in this topic should be fairly trustworthy from a personal experience point of view.

I realise that the old wine "regime" always had this idea that Robertson was too hot to produce good quality wine and they always made sure it was talked about because they bought a lot of their bulk wine from the Breede River Valley producers (Robertson, Worcester, Rawsonville, Bonnievale, Montagu, Ashton etc). Unfortunately this also transferred into the general consumers mind and even media write about this, because that is what was said. So what do we do with the perception that Robertson is too HOT? Well let's start with this: When people say this, it is as if Paarl, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Durbanville (PFSD) are NOT HOT. The way they talk about the heat in Robertson almost sounds like it is the only place that heats up.

My office is in Stellenbosch and I can tell you that the heat definitely didn’t spare anyone anywhere in the Western Cape. Those of you reading this and living in and around PFSD will agree, but the worst of all is that the nights are warm as well which makes for sleep deprivation. I spoke with a couple of Airconditioning companies during January and they were flooded with orders. Even GAME stores in the Western Cape SOLD out of their airconditioner special weeks before it was supposed to end. Do I have a point, you bet I do! Look at these figures from three out of the twelve weather stations in the Robertson Valley: (there is a lot more data available)


Robertson
Bonnievale
La Chasseur
January
Max
Min
Max
Min
Max
Min
4
38.8
16.0
37.8
17.4
39.9
16.8
5
37.5
18.2
36.7
17.1
39.3
20.0
6
38.0
19.5
36.7
19.4
39.7
17.0
7
40.5
15.5
39.4
15.5
41.4
17.1
8
34.8
13.7
33.1
15.3
36.3
16.2
9
31.3
19.6
30.1
19.6
31.6
19.2
12
34.3
13.2
33.7
13.5
35.5
15.1
15
34.0
16.1
32.5
15.3
36.1
15.4
16
32.4
13.2
32.8
13.7
31.9
14.3
18
35.0
18.0
33.8
14.6
37.3
15.5
19
35.8
17.6
34.1
18.6
36.0
17.0
21
31.6
14.0
29.8
15.6
33.5
16.7
24
31.5
14.6
30.3
15.9
32.6
17.2
25
35.0
19.8
34.0
19.5
35.4
19.8
26
33.5
16.7
32.0
16.1
35.1
18.1
28
30.5
15.3
29.6
13.9
31.6
15.0
29
34.4
14.4
33.1
15.0
37.0
18.0
30
30.8
14.5
30.3
15.1
32.6
16.8
31
30.8
16.3
30.1
15.9
32.0
15.1
19
34.24
16.12
33.15
16.16
35.5
16.9

We all remember that first week in January where the temperature soared over 40*C. But look at how cool the nights were in Robertson after a day of sweltering heat. Up to 25*C fluctuations in temperature!!!! During 19 days over 30*C there is an average fluctuation between Max and Min Temperatures of around 18*C. I can tell you that during that first week in January my house was 34*C at 2am for more than one night...and I don’t live in Robertson. Apart from this there was also many days where the Max Temperature was in the low twenties with a day or two around 21*C.

Without going into too much detail in the advantages of these low temperatures at night for the grapes, winemakers and viticulturists I can tell you that it is a huge contributor to the colouring of the grapes. The cooler temperatures also helps the vines to rejuvenate themselves and recover from the day's heat a lot quicker than in warmer temperatures. Very much like a marathon athlete or rugby player that needs an ice bath to help with the recovery of their muscles.

So is Robertson a warm climate producing area?? Sorry but I disagree, even if there was a GAME in Robertson, their airconditioners would not have been sold out, because you can actually sleep at night with only a fan or without it. It is not as if Robertson is 40*C and other regions are 25*C. When it is HOT in the Cape Winelands it is HOT everywhere, but which area cools off the most? There is a lot more data that the weather stations capture, but I wanted to show all of you that the perception of Robertson being too HOT or much HOTTER than the rest is FALSE.

I hope you enjoyed this article…

Take Care

Colyn “The Leg” Truter
Twitter:           colyntruter
                        rietvalleiwines
Email:              colyn@rietvallei.co.za
Facebook:        rietvalleiestate  

2 comments:

  1. http://miguelchanwinejournal.blogspot.com/2010/01/2004-springfield-estate-methode.html

    Hi Colyn

    I know lots of people in Robertson that would die with out their air cons, because it is ^&*(% hot during the day. Average temperature is more NB than the highs and the lows. Read the link above and let me know what you think. Having said all of that I recon soil type is more important, but that another long story. See you on Saturday.

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  2. Thanks Dion, Look i am not going to try and pick a fight with Miguel, i respect him as a sommelier and wine person. Everyone can form their own opinion, but what i dont agree with is that fact that a lot of people are pretending that "this side" of the mountain it doesnt reach 30*C. We all know that is utter BS and yes average temp. plays a role but dont come and tell me that it doesnt make logical sense that cooler evening temp. is advantageous to grapes. Soil baking? well im pretty damn sure that the soils in Stellenbosch and Paarl are cooking at 10pm when it is still 30*C outside.
    If you have lived in Robertson and experienced the cooling effect the breeze through the valley has you will know what i am talking about. Another example i want to give is: In January when a lot of guys were already picking Pinot Noir for MCC at 18-19 Balling in Robertson, we still had a block that wasnt even 14 Balling. There is a lot of micro climates within the valley with various soil types etc etc. But this was not the aim of my article. I wanted to show people what the variance is in temperatures in Robertson and that does play a role in wine growing.
    The way people talk is almost like the Namid Desert saying the Sahara is hot...

    ReplyDelete