The drought in the Western Cape will not affect the brandy grape harvest. PICTURE: Supplied

Raise a glass because it’s looking like a great brandy grape harvest despite the extreme drought conditions in the Western Cape.

Distell, Africa’s leading producer of spirits, and the International Wine and Spirit Competition’s World’s Best Brandy Producer of 2016 confirmed that it took delivery of their first batch of base wine from independent grape farmers in early February, and wasted no time to begin the first distillation.

Brandy is made from high quality ‘base wine’ which is not the same as regular table wines as it’s made from grapes picked earlier in the season in order to have higher acid concentration and lower sugar levels. These grapes – traditionally Chenin Blanc or Colombar in SA – come from the warmer regions of the Western and Northern Cape like Goudini and Worcester.

Head of Brandy and Spirits Excellence at Distell, Mare-Loe Prinsloo says there’s been a 25% increase in the amount of base wine distilled in 2017, compared to last year.

“The increased volume is due to increased demand for these quality products as more South Africans realize that our home-grown brandies are of extremely high quality and can compete with French cognacs on taste and better still, are more affordable,” says Prinsloo. She explains that brandy grape growing areas had received winter rain which stopped earlier than usual in 2016 but was to the advantage of the grape varieties picked early.

Water was available at a critical stage of growth resulting in healthy grapes says Prinsloo: “It sounds strange, given the drought but the climate resulted in the grapes having a low pH and a high acidity which is ideal for brandy. Yields per hectare were also better than those from previous year.”