DURBAN – THE LATEST wine grape crop estimates were a silver lining for the South African wine industry and were likely to boost its international position, Wines of South Africa (WoSA) said yesterday.
WoSA chief executive Siobhan Thompson said what stood out was the consistency in quality over recent years.
“This will go a long way to convince those who may still have been on the fence, and it will reinforce our overall standing alongside our international competitors. It is also promising that the volume and value of wine exports from South Africa are higher compared to the year-on-year figures in 2020 and 2019,” said Thompson.
The latest estimates from the South African Wine Industry Information and Systems showed the 2021 wine grape crop was estimated at 1 461 599 tons, which was 8.9 percent larger than the harvest last year.
The South African Wine Harvest Report 2021 showed that wine lovers from across the globe could enjoy outstanding wines from a much cooler and later 2021 wine grape season in South Africa.
Vinpro consultation service manager Conrad Schutte said it seemed as though the vines took their time to prepare this year’s harvest.
“Moderate weather throughout the season, and specifically during harvest time, resulted in grapes ripening slower, while developing exceptional colour and flavour,” he said.
The harvest kicked off about two weeks later than normal because of unusually cool weather conditions throughout the season, which persisted throughout the harvest and resulted in some wine grape producers harvesting their last grapes in May.
Schutte said that water resources had been replenished in most regions following the recent drought, which contributed to good vine growth, bunch numbers and berry sizes.
“Although these are general observations, it is always important to take the South Africa wine industry’s diversity over 10 wine grape growing regions into account,” he added.
Vinpro said the cooler weather enabled producers to harvest their grapes at exactly the right time, and viticulturists and winemakers were particularly excited about good colour extraction, low pH levels and high natural acidity in cases where vineyards were managed effectively, which all pointed to “exceptional quality wines”.
The 2021 wine harvest, which included juice and concentrate for non-alcoholic purposes, wine for brandy and distilling wine, was expected to be 1 136.4 million litres, at an average recovery of 778 litres per ton of grapes.
South Africa was the ninth-biggest wine producer in the world and produced about 4 percent of the world’s wine.
Intermittent restrictions on the export and local sale of alcohol in South Africa from March last year to February 2021 as part of the country’s national state of disaster resulted in 650 million litres of wine stock at the end of last year, of which a large portion was not yet contracted.
In February, Vinpro said the alcohol bans had caused domestic wine sales to decline 20 percent in volume.
Vinpro managing director Rico Basson said that with so much stock still in the tanks at the beginning of the harvest, producers and wineries were concerned about processing and storage capacity when taking in the new harvest, which resulted in many renting additional storage space or restored old tanks.
“However, the fact that sales reopened, along with the harvest starting later than normal, helped ease the pressure to some extent.”
A number of wineries were able to secure contracts with grape juice manufacturers, which helped work away some of the stock.
Basson said the larger wine grape crop would require careful planning from producers and wineries to sell the current wine stock in a responsible and sustainable way.