Things are looking up for the wine grape harvest, but expectations have been muted by a three-year drought and bad weather during fruit set in October. REUTERS African News Agency (ANA)
DURBAN - The second wine grape harvest forecast by viticulturists and producer cellars expects this year’s South African harvest to be only slightly larger than last year’s much smaller crop.

This was due to vineyards still recovering from a three-year drought, bad weather during fruit set in October and a continued decline in wine grape vineyards.

These findings were issued by the wine industry body SA Wine Industry Information and Systems this month and show that the 2018 harvest amounted to 1238000 tons, 14% smaller than the previous year.

Vinpro consultation services manager Francois Viljoen said: “The main reasons for the smaller crop in 2019 are the poor set of wine grape bunches that are being observed throughout the Western Cape due to wet, cold conditions and wind experienced in October last year.

“Vineyards also do not grow with similar vigour throughout the regions, which is also the result of the severe drought experienced last season.”

He said the quality of the 2019 vintage will depend on the weather over the next few weeks, which looked promising at this stage with cooler conditions.

Average to lower yields are expected, but grapes are generally healthy due to looser bunches that lower the risk of rot setting in and sufficient water resources will be available in most regions.

The summer season is moderate at this stage and in most regions there are sufficient water supplies available for irrigation during the ripening period, except in the eastern part of the Klein Karoo which still suffers from a severe drought.

Viljoen said some of the vineyards took a beating and would take time to recover and that the drought would have a carry-over effect in areas like the Olifants River region and coastal dryland vineyards.

“The 2017/18 season forever changed our frame of reference about our water resources and way of thinking about water in general, with new ways to accumulate and save water and use this scarce resource more efficiently.

“In some cases vineyards had to be managed with 50% less water than usual and in some extreme cases with only 16% of the normal water allocation,” said Viljoen.