End-of-Harvest Q&A with Alvi van der Merwe

Harvest time at Alvi’s Drift is pure magic. We sat down with our head winemaker to learn what went into the 2024 harvest at our third-generation winery.

End-of-Harvest Q&A with Alvi van der Merwe

At Alvi’s Drift, every harvest tells a unique story, and 2024 was no exception. Despite the challenges of flood damage and a significantly smaller crop compared to last year, our head winemaker is excited about what promises to be an exceptional harvest. 

Read our interview with Alvi van der Merwe to learn more about this year’s harvest at our third-generation winery nestled in mountains in the beautiful, cool-climate Scherpenheuvel wine ward.


When did the 2024 harvest begin, and is it still going, or have you wrapped it up by now?

Alvi: We started on 22 January, about two weeks earlier than usual. We began by harvesting the Chardonnay grapes for our Cap Classique wines. The grape berries are very small, but the quality looks amazing. We should be done harvesting by the end of March.


What would you say were some of the biggest challenges you faced during this busy time of 2024?

Alvi: We overestimated the size of our crop. It turned out to be rather tiny, a result of the floods at the end of last year that caused us to lose about 30 hectares of vineyards.  

We also had a very cold early summer. Normally, this bodes well for quality, but if the cold comes with a lot of wind, pollen gets blown away. This means fewer grape berries develop, resulting in smaller crops. 

“At Alvi’s Drift, we’re committed to getting nature back into balance. Everything has a part to play, even the tiny organisms living on the vines’ and cover crops’ roots and leaves. There’s just so much to discover when it comes to sustainable farming.”


Can you tell us more about your sustainability efforts at Alvi’s Drift?

Alvi: A while ago, we planted a lot of indigenous paperbarks and white stinkwood trees. Now, we see predatory birds returning to our vineyards, catching rodents and vermin, which is just wonderful to witness. 

Spraying pesticides and using poisons only disturb the ecological balance, so we choose to opt for sustainable solutions instead. 

We use the manure from our livestock to fertilise our soils, and we are serious about producing sustainable, eco-friendly wines in a manner that also minimises our impact on the environment.


We understand that you put a lot of thought and planning into your vineyard irrigation system. Can you tell us more?

Alvi: We have 30 hectares of vineyards where we irrigate 25 cm underground, nourishing the roots of the cover crops and the hair roots of our vines. We are the first wine farm in our country to adopt this technology. This, of course, helps us to conserve water. But in those vineyards, we’ve also found that the soil’s pH levels are lower, and the quality of the fruit is remarkable – with tighter, fuller bunches.


Are there any standout Alvi’s Drift 2024 vintages you’d like to tell us about?

Alvi: Keep in mind that I’m an optimist, but to me, this vintage is just spectacular! 

We finished fermenting our Cap Classiques, and they look wonderful, beautiful flavours of Granny Smith apple and strawberry. Our Sparkling Brut Rosé, to me, is the best we’ve ever produced, and the 2024 Sparkling Blanc de Blanc is also beautiful. 

Our Sauvignons are looking promising, but Chardonnay may be a little early to say. Some of the reds, the few Merlots we’ve done thus far, look really, really great. 


Are there any new varieties or new wines we should be on the lookout for from Alvi’s Drift?

Alvi: We are releasing a complex, textured Viognier wine that will be part of our Reserve range. I’m so excited about this wine. It’s just incredible on the palate. With one of the largest Viognier plantations in South Africa, we're also extremely proud of our multi-award-winning 2021 Signature Viognier – it received a Gold medal at the 2022 Viognier Challenge!

 

“One has to be realistic about the state of the wine industry. If you look at the latest SAWIS figures, only 12% of vineyards in SA are currently profitable.”


We understand there’s a price increase in store for Alvi’s Drift wines. Can you tell us more about the factors that necessitated this?

Alvi: The entire wine industry, globally and locally, is in trouble. Every pricing decision we make is carefully considered, taking in mind our brand values and the well-being of all stakeholders.

Sustainability is very important to us, and this includes protecting the environment, our business growth, and ensuring that our workforce keeps flourishing on all fronts. With our pricing strategy, we aim to deliver exceptional value, while also preserving the environment for generations to come. Sometimes, we must make tough decisions to protect our future amid global industry challenges.

We really thank everyone for their understanding. If we were able to get by without raising our prices, we certainly would have done so.

“Our team is close to my heart. The last while was challenging, but it’s also been a special time here at Alvi’s Drift. Despite the setbacks, everyone has just been consistently giving their best.”


Can you tell us what went into the making of the 2024 vintage of your flagship wine, the Verreaux Pinotage?

Alvi: We’re actually harvesting these grapes right now. The juices came in at 8 degrees celsius this morning. Can you believe that? Only 8 degrees!

There's a lot that goes into making a wine like our flagship Verreaux Pinotage. We’ve got a very special vineyard where we grow these Pinotage grapes, located on a southern slope. It’s got the most beautiful, complex soils: limestone and a little bit of shale. Then, the Pinotage vine clone we’ve been using just seems to be working so beautifully for us.

For our Verreaux Pinotage, we do a double fermentation, which means double skin contact during the wine’s production process, which is quite unique and not a mainstream winemaking practice. Then, it goes into new European and American Oak barrels to mature. These barrels are costly, but for producing this flagship wine, we spare no expense.

All these factors truly make for an exceptional Pinotage wine. Last year, we won the coveted Pinotage Trophy at the Michelangelo International Wine & Spirit Awards for our Verreaux Pinotage.

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