Baboons run past a vineyard on the Constantia Uitsig wine estate in Cape Town. Picture: AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam, File
Cape Town - Although the impact from the drought experienced in the Western Cape may be less severe on 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 said 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.

By raising standards in winemaking, fine-wine shows boosted not only the wine industry, but affiliated industries as well.

“Some estimates expected the harvest to be between 60% and 80% lower in 2018 than in 2017. However, we now expect only a 15% 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 R15billion 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 the government via excise and other taxes. In 2017, this amounted to R6.7bn, an 8% increase on 2016,” said Nel.

He said the impact on economic development on otherwise poverty-stricken areas shouldn’t be underestimated, or the impact of transforming the wine sector.

“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 transformation, sustainability and ethical production were priorities for the sector, corporates and the government.

According to Vinpro, 39917 farm workers now produce more than 900000 tons of wine grapes, and 1400 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 locally and internationally, and we enjoy building relationships with wine lovers all over South Africa and the world.

“Our support of the 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 and showed wine tourism in the Western Cape had grown by 16% between 2016 and last year, and 99% of Cape Town-based itineraries included a trip to the Winelands.

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Cape Argus