Wine producers realised yield of 1.244 million tons this year, and the average wine grape crop over the past five years was 1.360 million tons. Photo: AP

CAPE TOWN – The South African Wine Industry Information and Systems (Sawis) says its estimates show that the country’s wine grape harvest next year will be equal to or larger than this year's output, but smaller than the average over the past five years. 

Sawis said wine producers realised a yield of 1.244 million tons this year, and the average wine grape crop over the past five years was 1.360 million tons.

“At this early stage we evaluate the wine grape crop size according to the prevailing seasonal conditions up to now,” said Conrad Schutte, consultation service manager of the wine industry body Vinpro. 

“Depending on the cultivar and wine goal, the grapes will still develop and ripen over the next 60 to 100 days before being harvested. 

"In this window, the environmental conditions and management inputs will have a substantial effect on the final quality and size,” he said.

Most wine grape growing areas have experienced a good season up to now, with the exception of frost damage in the Northern Cape and ongoing drought in the Klein Karoo, he added. 

The Western Cape’s dam levels totalled 82 percent by mid-September, at the beginning of the growing season, due to good winter rainfall. 

This compared to 70 percent last year and 37 percent for the same period in 2017. 

The Clanwilliam Dam was currently at 85 percent in the Olifants River region, which was hit hard by drought previously.

The Klein Karoo was still in drought, and in many cases it was critical. Producers in the Robertson region who received water from the Brandvlei Dam had sufficient water, but those who were dependent on run-off from the mountains were under severe pressure, he said.

“The Northern Cape received almost no rainfall in the course of the season, but dams had sufficient water, and we hope that the good rainfall at the beginning of December continues in the next few weeks,” Conrad added.

Favourable weather conditions in spring contributed to earlier than normal and even budbreak and Schutte was positive about the amount of flower bunches and good set observed in October.  

Producers in certain irrigation areas also reported limited incidents of frost damage during this time. “Parts of the Northern Cape were hit by heavy frost damage at the end of October, which could contribute to substantial crop losses,” Conrad said.

Although the coastal region received good rainfall at this time, producers had to closely manage fungal diseases, weeds and vineyard canopies.