Wine growers reveal silver lining to South Africa's drought with bumper harvest
Vineyard owners in South Africa are forecasting a ‘exceptional wines’ from the 2017 vintage following a harvest that was better than 2016 despite the drought.
The wine industry body VinPro says the 2017 harvest, that is at 1,425,283 tonnes 1.4 per cent larger than in 2016, was initially expected to be smaller. South Africa is the eighth largest wine prodcuer in the world selling four in every hundred bottles drunk worldwide.
“A decrease was expected due to the second consecutive very dry, hot season,” says Francois Viljoen, manager of VinPro’s viticulture consultation service. “However, cooler nights throughout the growing season and the absence of significant heatwaves during harvest time buffered the effect of the drought to some extent,” says Francois Viljoen, manager of VinPro’s viticulture consultation service.
HOW THE 2017 HARVEST WILL BE USED:
JUICE AND CONCENTRATE FOR NON-ALCOHOLIC PURPOSES, WINE FOR BRANDY AND DISTILLING WINE INCLUDED TOTALLING 1.1 TRILLION LITRES, CALCULATED AT 776 LITRES PER TONNE OF GRAPES
“Consumers can definitely look forward to an exceptional 2017 vintage,” said Viljoen.
The dry, warm weather resulted in healthy grapes and small berries with good intensity. Greater variation between night and day temperatures during the ripening stage gave the colour and flavour formation a further boost, which are indicative of remarkable quality wines.
The Swartland and Paarl regions obtained much larger crops following sharp declines in 2016. Robertson’s production was close to the record harvest in 2016, while Olifants River and Breedekloof increased somewhat following small crops last year. Slightly smaller yields were noted in the Northern Cape, Stellenbosch and Worcester and a much smaller harvest in the Klein Karoo.
Although higher rainfall brought some relief in certain regions, it was still very much below average and the warmer weather conditions required producers to manage water usage very closely, said the report on Cape Business News.
On the plus side, the dry conditions resulted in very healthy vineyards and smaller berries with good colour and flavour concentration. These conditions, along with the ideal cool weather during harvest time formed the perfect combination for an exceptional quality wine grape harvest, according to Viljoen.
Wines of South Africa CEO, Siobhan Thompson is positive, “Having spoken to many of our producers, general sentiment is that the harvest was one of the best seen in many years, specifically in terms of quality. The cooler than normal weather experienced in February saw to more even ripening periods and winemakers from various regions have commented positively on the outcome, despite the challenging weather conditions we’ve experienced. We are looking forward to seeing what this somewhat exceptional vintage does for South African wines as a whole in international markets.”