A staff works with a tractor in a wine yard. File Picture: Reuters
Cape Town - The Western Cape’s drought has resulted in a smaller grape crop this year compared to previous years, which could lead to lower wine volumes and supplies.

Distell’s head winemaker, Niel Groenewald, said the 2018 wine grape harvest was likely to be 30% down, with up to two weeks’ worth of delays despite the healthy quality delivered.

Groenewald said the year had proven to be one of the most challenging harvesting seasons. He said the dry conditions impacted on the quality of the premium quality grapes.

“The ongoing drought in the Cape has certainly had an impact on this year’s harvest, with some vineyards being water-stressed, but frost, hails and sunburn were also contributing factors in certain areas,” Groenewald said.

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“We have seen slower ripening of the grapes than usual due to smaller canopies, limited water in the soils and that which is available for irrigation.”

Groenewald said Distell accounted for nearly a third of total wine production in South Africa, with a quarter of all grapes procured from its own farms.

He said the drought would impact on the supplies of established brands such as Nederburg, Durbanville Hills, Alo, Fleur du Cap, Zonnebloem, Plaisir de Merle and Allesverloren.

However, Groenewald said the company’s substantial footprint gave it access to grapes that could help in offsetting the yield’s drop this year.

He said wine grape growers and producers needed to accelerate efforts to adapt to conditions of the drought, adding that Distell anticipated a potential shortage of supplies.

“We contracted around 40% of wine supply to mitigate against supply risk, especially for our popular brands like 4th Street, Two Oceans and Drostdy Hof, among others,” said Groenewald.

According to the SA Wine Industry Information and Systems, viticulturists and cellars estimated that this year would record the smallest wine grape harvest since 2005.

The fourth harvest estimate was in mid-March, when close to two-thirds of the harvest had been taken in by cellars.

Groenewald said Distell continued to collaborate with its supplier network to find ways to enhance production and infrastructural efficiencies to ensure viability in the face of the ongoing ­climate of global economic viability.

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Cape Argus