A significantly smaller South African wine grape harvest can be expected in 2016, following one of the hottest, driest seasons in years. This according to Francois Viljoen, manager of VinPro’s viticultural consultation service at the annual Nedbank VinPro Information Day in Cape Town.

Larger crops than in 2015 are expected in the Orange River and Klein Karoo, while the other wine grape producing regions all predict a decrease to a greater or smaller extent. The Swartland area is expected to experience the largest decline due to the great area under dryland vineyards.

Although the winter was cold enough to ensure enough dormancy in the vines, the industry only received around 60% of its annual rainfall. Spring arrived somewhat later than usual, with ideal conditions for flowering and bud-break. However, El Nino struck middle October with abnormal heat continuing up until mid-January, which experienced 12 consecutive days above 35°C. Viljoen explained that wine grape production halts in the vine once the heat rises above this temperature.

The negative effects of the hot, dry weather could escalate even further should the conditions continue in the rest of the harvest season.

“All is not doom and gloom, however, because the majority of our vineyards still have enough water to see the season through. The smaller yields are also the result of the lighter bunches and smaller berry-size and this gives us the potential – if it ripens optimally – to make good quality wines with excellent colour and flavour concentration,” said Viljoen. 

It also seems that optimum ripeness levels are going to be achieved at lower sugar levels which potentially means lower alcohol wines, making marketers’ jobs easier”.

Viljoen referred to the 2030 Future Vineyards project by VinPro, with partners from industry, which aims to experiment with new technology, cultivars, practices and demo blocks to address global warming and limited water resources.


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