SA wine grape harvest declines

SABC News Grapes - SA wine grape harvest declines

The South African wine grape harvest has shrunk, again. It also shrunk in 2018. This is the lowest in 14 years. The upside is that the quality of the smaller harvest is of exceptional quality.

It was a long, hard battle as a winter rainfall area, the Western Cape, was in trouble. For three consecutive years; below average rainfall caused mayhem in the province. The 2019 crop is estimated at just over 1.2 million tons. It’s a decrease of 1.4% on 2019’s yield and the lowest since 2005. Among the reasons, producers planted less than the hectares of vineyards that were taken out.

Conrad Schutte from VINPRO says the vines dropped their leaves earlier than usual.

“The vines dropped their leaves earlier than usual. We couldn’t build up enough reserves in those vines, so that manifested in lower crop levels throughout the growing season. It was also very challenging in terms of budding; we saw large fluctuations in the temperatures so we saw uneven growth within the vineyards and during set we had windy and cold conditions so we actually saw that the flowers couldn’t set the normal amount of berries it usually does and then if those grapes end up in the cellar they weigh less than usual.”

Although most wine grape regions received good rainfall during the season, the effects of the drought is still being felt. Vineyards and soils will take some time to recover.

There is good news too. Scuttle says that grape berries with better flavours grew in the challenging conditions.

“We did see really small grape berries in these challenging conditions and usually we have better flavours in those grape berries that we can put in the bottle. So as we are going through the cellars, really good balanced wines, elegant wines and the quality is looking really good at this stage.”

According to unemployment figures released on Tuesday, the agriculture industry in the country shed 12 000 jobs in the first quarter of 2019.

South Africa delivers around 4% of the world’s wine and is the 8th biggest wine producer. The wine industry contributes R36 billion to the country’s GDP and employs nearly 290 000 people.

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