Hopes are high for South Africa’s 2017 harvest despite lack of rain

Hopes are high for South Africa’s 2017 harvest despite lack of rain

Despite concerns throughout the 2017 South African wine harvest that weather conditions were going to combine to damage the overall vintage, the final results are now expected to be very encouraging with a bigger than expected harvest, higher yields and some “exceptional” quality grapes coming through. 

The fact South Africa has had so little rain for the last two years had raised fears that the vintage would be hit. But it is now expected to reach 1,425,283 tonnes, up  1.4% on last year.

Francois Vijoen, viticulture service manager of wine industry research body VinPro, said: 

“A decrease was expected due to the second consecutive very dry, hot season. However, cooler nights throughout the growing season and the absence of significant heatwaves during harvest time buffered the efffect of the drought to some extent.”

There are going to be bigger yields in both Swartland and Paarl which will be a relief as they both returned sharp declines in 2016. While Robertson’s production was close to the record harvest last year, Olifants River and Breedekloof increased somewhat following small crops last year. And in the Northern Cape, Stellenbosch and Worcester regions, slightly smaller yields were reported, with a much smaller harvest in the Klein Karoo.

The 2017 harvest did see some rainfall it was still well below average. But the weather also meant the vineyards were healthy with smaller berries, good colour and flavour concentration. The vintage was particularly helped by ideal cool weather during the harvest which has got producers hopeful that there could be some exceptional wines to be made, said Viljoen.

Wines of South Africa’s CEO Siobhan Thompson, added: “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.”

But there will be hopes that the rains do return in time for the 2018 harvest. Viljoen explained: “We are grateful that the weather played along during the 2017 harvest, but looking towards the 2018 wine grape season that is around the corner, we are really hoping for rain during the upcoming post-harvest and winter period,” added Viljoen.

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