FILE PHOTO: A worker harvests grapes at the La Motte wine farm in Franschhoek near Cape Town
CAPE TOWN - Although the impact from the drought experienced in the Western Cape may be less severe on the the 2018 wine grape harvest than previously estimated, it has challenged local winemakers to be more innovative.

This is according to Koos Nel of Old Mutual Personal Finance.

Nel added that fine wine competition made a crucial contribution to the regional economy by driving excellence in the industry and raising the profile of local wines locally and internationally.

He said by raising standards in winemaking, fine wine shows boosted not only the wine industry itself, but also affiliated industries. 

“Some estimates expected the harvest to be between 60 percent and 80 percent lower in 2018 than in 2017. However, we now expect only a 15 percent lower yield in 2018 compared to previous years. There’s no doubt that the creative ways in which winemakers have tackled the drought, water restrictions and their related challenges helped lessen the impact,” said Nel.

He cited a recent report by Vinpro which found that wine tourism contributed R15 billion to the local economy with local wine sales amounting to R13.2bn.

“It’s clear that the wine industry continues to support regional economies through agriculture, manufacturing, trade, tourism and hospitality. In terms of state revenue we’ve seen consistent increases in the amount paid to government via excise and other taxes. In 2017, this amounted to R6.7bn, an 8 percent increase on 2016,” said Nel.

He said the impact on economic development on otherwise poverty-stricken areas shouldn’t be underestimated, and nor should the impact of transforming the wine sector itself.

“It’s vital to both motivate and showcase efforts within the wine sector to constantly raise standards and for those efforts to be honoured through awards and business progression,” said Nel.

He said that transformation, sustainability and ethical production remained top priorities for the sector, corporates and the government.

According to Vinpro, 39 917 farm workers now produce more than 900 000 tons of wine grapes and 1 400 of the country’s wine grape producers operate under certified ethical employment conditions.

Nel said the commitment to sustainable agriculture and respect for the vine as part of a viable and varied ecosystem at DeMorgenzon helped it snag two gold medals this year for the DeMorgenzon Reserve Chardonnay 2017 and DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017.

“We’re committed to discovering and encouraging talent, and highlighting it both locally and internationally, and we enjoy building relationships with wine lovers all over South Africa and the world. Our support of the renowned Trophy Wine Show reflects our belief that the competition delivers great value on multiple fronts. Not only does the process identify the country’s top wines, it also makes this information available to wine drinkers, enabling them to make discerning choices,” said Nel.

Earlier this year, Wesgro released the results of a 2017 survey the agency conducted in partnership with Explore Sideways, the second annual Wine and Food Tourism Study in the Western Cape.

The study surveyed more than 40 South African tour operators, accounting for over 19 000 itineraries booked over the year.

Key findings from the survey showed that wine tourism in the Western Cape had grown by 16 percent between 2016 and last year and that tour operators indicated that 99 percent of Cape Town-based itineraries include a trip to the Winelands.

Cape Town Tourism chief executive Enver Duminy said Cape Town had  a long history of wine production across the city and many wine farms capitalise on visitor interest by developing unique experiences ranging from on-premise restaurants to wind and food pairings, as well as tours and activities for children.

“This makes a visit to a wine farm a fully immersive experience. When we travel to trade shows or market the city in any way, we’re certain to include the stunning scenery of the winelands and the upmarket tourism offerings these provide,” said Duminy.

- BUSINESS REPORT