Thanks to the vine: Cathedral Cellar reflects on harvest 2023

As sure as grapes become wine, their vinous journey from budburst to bottle is no small feat, and the 2023 harvest attests to this. At Cathedral Cellar this annual journey reaches its crescendo in April when the final grapes are brought to its eponymous cellar at KWV. This moment also marks a key transition in the winemaking journey, as the proverbial ‘baton’ is passed from the vineyard team to the cellar team – when the hope and hive of activity of harvest turn to a time of settling and ageing in the cellar. It is perhaps appropriate that this moment is also reflected in the change of season, as well as Easter, a religious holiday characterised by reflection and gratitude.

Water into wine

The 2023 harvest for Cathedral Cellar started on 9 January. It concluded on 29 March, requiring nearly three months of constant attentiveness, traversing various regions in the Western Cape to observe intricate details and changes. KWV’s Chief Viticulturist, Marco Ventrella, says that the 2023 harvest was a vintage “driven by water”. This precious resource makes wine possible and experienced hands like Marco and its team know how to preserve supply for the vines – but those who work with the vine also know that nothing is ever guaranteed.

Just as everything was running like clockwork, with the new moon came torrential rains with dry spells in between before the heavens once again drenched the earth. “These rains seriously stuck the cat among the pigeons, compelling us to wait for the sugars to come up and the vineyards to dry before making our next move. Thankfully, the water bearer spared us a break to bring in the last fruit before rot or disease could set in, and we wrapped up the harvest on a healthy and physiologically ripe note,” says Marco.

Still, there is no recipe to mitigate the outcome of a fickle vintage such as 2023 but relying on instinct and experience. “That is why a time of thanksgiving to every hand, raindrop and healthy berry is vital to embrace the year and each wine to follow from this harvest,” says Cathedral Cellar Brand Manager, Tanya Blokdyk.

To highlight this time of thanks, Cathedral Cellar Ambassador Chef, Mynhardt Joubert, was asked to develop a series of recipes to highlight the qualities of this exquisite range of wines.

A feast of thanks

Inspired by the spirit of Easter and in true generous form, Chef Mynhardt developed a feast that can only evoke gratitude. His menu includes Italian-style schiacciata bread (made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes), iconic curried pickled yellowtail, white-wine infused Provençal lamb shanks with green olives and artichokes, as well decadent Pinotage chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache and sea salt.

“Each of these dishes relates a very special story”, says Mynhardt, “the schiacciata flatbread, evokes a sense of togetherness, as guests need to break a piece from the bread and share around the table. The pickled fish has such a deep-rooted cultural base in our South African society, and its smell so synonymous with Easter and its familial connection. A dish of hearty lamb shank heralds the colder winter months, and it is such a fitting meal to have in autumn as we bid farewell to summer. Lastly, the Pinotage cake is just a magical dish that will remain in the minds of diners long after they’ve left the table!”