Muratie celebrates 2004 harvest blessings

Friday, 26 March, 2004
Lynn Bolin
Since 1988, the blessings have been commemorated in a giant, leather-bound book
Stellenbosch-based Muratie Estate, known for its wonderful Pinot Noir and Ansela red blend wines, recently held its 16th annual ‘Blessing of the Harvest’ celebration at the farm in a year that owners the Melck family describe as an excellent one in terms of grape quality.

The Melcks have been hosting the event for family, friends and wine industry associates since 1988, with each year commemorated in a giant-size, leather-bound book that faithfully records the signatures of each person present. This year between 60 and 70 lucky guests were treated to a wonderfully traditional Cape home-cooked meal that could easily have been eaten by Ansela van der Caab—a slave on the farm freed in 1695 who married Muratie’s first Prussian owner.

The Blessing itself was offered by well-known wine industry scion Allan Mullins, the long-time buyer and winemaker for Woolworths. As suited the very friendly and relaxed occasion, Mullins obliged by recounting some heartwarming memories of the happiness engendered by wine and friends throughout his lengthy career in the industry. Listeners could not help feeling jealous while following his descriptions of some of the fantastic times he has shared with his fellow wine lovers!

Rijk Melck, who now devotes himself full-time to Muratie’s wines after giving up his general practitioner (GP) practice in Stellenbosch in 2003, says the 2004 harvest should come in at around the same, or slightly less, level as that of 2003. At a yield of between 5.5 and 6 tons per hectare, this should amount to about 8,000 cases.

Quality-wise, he confides that despite the unusual weather conditions that made the 2004 harvest a somewhat complicated one, Muratie’s harvest went off extremely well. The 2004 reds have the potential to rank up there with the best, he believes.

‘We’re very happy with the quality of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,’ he enthused. ‘For the first time we have selected a single vineyard of Pinot Noir to use for our own wines, and the other three blocks will go to Distell for use in Pongraz in the future. The result is that Muratie Pinot Noir 2004 volumes will be much reduced, but the grapes have been hand picked and sorted before being crushed. ‘They showed wonderful acid and pH. The fermentation went smoothly and the wine is now in French oak undergoing its malolactic fermentation.’

As for the Muratie Chardonnay, the grapes were picked by hand and then whole-bunch pressed, Rijk said. ‘The analysis shows great potential and I am convinced that this vintage will continue to expand the little cult-forming brand we now have.’

Muratie’s other red varieties had experienced later ripening than most other years—by about two weeks, he added. Most of the Merlot and some Shiraz had already been picked. ‘The grapes look healthy and the wine should be stunning. I think for us and other farms that specialise in the more ‘traditional’ approach to winemaking, the slow ripening this year—with the much cooler evenings and nights—has been very beneficial, and will help produce the big wines we are looking for.’