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Thursday 10 May 2018

South African grape harvest down - but disaster is avoided

South Africa has produced a 15% smaller harvest grape than last year but avoided a disastrous vintage that had been predicted.

The 2018 harvest suffered from a decline in vineyard area and crop losses due to frost and hail and produced just 1 220 920 tonnes, one of the smallest crops in more than a decade after the southern tip of Africa was struck by the worst drought in 100 years.

All regions except Breedekloof, where new plantings came online, reported a smaller wine grape crop, industry group VinPro reported.

In addition to water shortages, some vines in the Breedekloof, Worcester and Robertson areas were affected by frost damage in September and October 2017, with the Northern Cape region, where water supply was sufficient, also had a decrease in production as vines recovered poorly from frost damage earlier in the season.

“The 2018 harvest season was really challenging, due to a prolonged drought which some believe to be the worst in 100 years, and accompanied by water restrictions and frost damage in some areas,” said Francois Viljoen, manager of Vinpro’s viticultural consultation service.
The dry weather throughout the season did have compensations, however, as most vines were healthy, with little or no pests and diseases being recorded in most regions.

"The amount of grape bunches looked promising at first, but the berries were much smaller than usual, which affected the total tonnage. Smaller berries usually have good colour and flavour intensity and this, along with cooler weather during harvest time relieved some pressure on vines and bode well for quality,” Viljoen told local media.

Consumers could look forward to some really good wines from the 2018 vintage, he said.

Wines of South Africa said it also felt “very positive” about the prospective quality of the grapes from 2018 harvest.

"It is imperative that the standards of the wines we sell both locally and abroad can compete with that from the rest of the world," said CEO Siobhan Thompson. "It shows true character, not only in the quality of our terroir, but also from our winemakers, to adapt and overcome such challenging conditions in order to remain viable.”

South Africa is the eighth-biggest wine producer worldwide and produces about 4% of the world’s wine.

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