South Africa 2021 wine harvest: ‘A late and slow harvest was definitely worth the wait’

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/jamespenry
Pic:getty/jamespenry

Related tags: South africa, Wine

A much cooler and later 2021 wine grape season in South Africa is expected to lead to ‘exceptional wines’, according to wine industry body Vinpro.

Moderate weather throughout the season, and specifically during harvest time, resulted in grapes ripening slower, allowing them to develop colors and flavors.

And in terms of volume, the 2021 wine grape crop is estimated at 1,461,599 tonnes, according to the latest estimate of industry body SAWIS (South African Wine Industry Information & Systems) on 19 May 2021. That makes it 8.9% larger than the 2020 harvest.

Balancing 2020 and 2021

The 2021 harvest kicked off around two weeks later than normal due to unusually cool weather conditions throughout the season, which persisted throughout harvest time and resulted in some wine grape producers harvesting their last grapes in May.

Water resources were also replenished in most regions following the recent drought, which contributed to good vine growth, bunch numbers and berry sizes.

“Wine lovers can really look forward to remarkable wines from the 2021 crop,”​ said Conrad Schutte, consultation service manager of Vinpro. “The cooler weather enabled producers to harvest their grapes at exactly the right time, and viticulturists and winemakers are especially excited about good colour extraction, low pH levels and high natural acidity in cases where vineyards were managed effectively, which all point to exceptional quality wines.”

South Africa is the ninth biggest wine producer world-wide and produces about 4% of the world’s wine. The wine industry contributes more than R55 billion ($3.94bn) to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 269,069 people throughout the value-chain, of which 80,183 work on farms and in cellars.

As with other alcohol sectors, the wine industry faced alcohol bans throughout 2020. A larger 2021 harvest, therefore, has created a certain amount of pressure on storage capacity.

“Intermittent restrictions on the export and local sale of alcohol in South Africa resulted in 650 million litres of wine stock at the end of 2020, of which a large portion was not yet contracted,”​ said Rico Basson, Vinpro MD.

“With so much stock still in the tanks at the beginning of harvest time, producers and wineries were concerned about processing and storage capacity when taking in the new harvest, many of whom rented 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 also able to secure contracts with grape juice manufacturers, which helped work away some of the stock.

“The larger wine grape crop will require careful planning from producers and wineries to sell the current wine stock in a responsible and sustainable way,” ​continued Rico. “This situation will, however, also create the opportunity for innovation and growth of existing and new markets.”

Harvets by region

Breedekloof
A very late season, characterised by a good balance between yield and quality, as vines developed healthy canopies during a moderate growing season.

Cape South Coast
Challenging weather conditions led to a smaller crop, but enabled producers to truly make cool climate wines of exceptional quality.

Klein Karoo
Moderate weather conditions, good water availability and sufficient winter rainfall in certain areas resulted in a larger crop and great quality, although drought conditions still persist in some parts of the region, placing wine grape producers under great pressure.

Northern Cape
A good wine grape crop in terms of quality and volume, despite challenges in terms of sugar accumulation and load shedding during the peak of harvest time.

Olifants River
A later and cooler season resulted in slow, but even ripening of a somewhat larger and outstanding quality wine grape crop.

Paarl
Good water availability, sufficient reserves and cooler weather contributed to yields equal to that of 2020, which will result in elegant wines.

Robertson
Although it was a long and extended season, the vineyards realised a higher, exceptional quality yield.

Stellenbosch
A smaller crop, but outstanding quality grapes, resulting in great wines with good ageing potential.

Swartland
Consumers can look forward to exceptional wines from this year’s crop, following moderate weather conditions and slow ripening.

Worcester
One of the latest harvests recorded, bringing with it a larger wine grape crop and remarkable wines.

Source: Vinpro, SAWIS and WoSA

Related topics: Markets, Beer, Wine, Spirits, Cider

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