The winter and spring leading up to the 2016 vintage were among the driest in recent years. Normal rainfall in the area is about 450mm, but in 2016 this was only 176mm. Winter temperatures were not as cold as normal; unfortunately there was an unexpected heat wave at the end of October that rushed some of the earlier cultivars and meant that the veraison period was a bit shorter than normal. After that temperatures stayed on the higher-than-normal side and the rain stayed away. The ripening period was subsequently shorter than normal due to the drier and warmer conditions.
With such little rain during the berry-setting and ripening period, the berries stayed very small. Chenin Blanc would normally be 1.5g per berry; this year the berries were smaller than 0.8g per berry. This was also a problem with some of the red cultivars.
However, with the smaller berries came a lot of concentration, intense flavours and very good colour. The Sauvignon Blanc shows more tropical fruit than the normal pyrazine-driven wines, and in 2016 Chenin Blanc is the star of the whites, with structure and expression of fruit showing beautifully. It truly highlights the possibilities of this cultivar. With the reds, Pinotage and Shiraz are showing lot of potential at this early stage.
Pieter-Niel Rossouw, Darling Cellars