Biggest wine grape crop ever

The total wine grape crop for 2013 is expected to reach 1 491 432t, exceeding the 2012 crop by 5,4% and the previous record achieved in 2008 by 4,6%. According to Vinpro, favourable weather conditions throughout the season in all the growing regions contributed to the size and quality of this year’s harvest. Bigger harvests are expected in all the wine districts, with the exception of Robertson, and record crops are predicted for Olifants River, Breedekloof and Worcester.

The 2013 wine harvest, including juice and concentrate for non-alcoholic purposes, wine for brandy and distilling wine, was expected to amount to 1,152 billion litres, calculated at an average recovery of 773l/t of grapes, compared with the 1,085 billion litres harvested in 2012.

Even bud burst
Vinpro’s Francois Viljoen said the 2013 harvest season had been particularly late and about two weeks shorter than usual.
“Prolonged winter conditions continued in some areas up until September, followed by a cool spring, which delayed bud burst by seven to 14 days. The cold, wet weather conditions ensured even bud burst, as well as the accumulation of water supplies that would allow the vineyards to cope with the warmer conditions later in the season,” said Viljoen.

Dry conditions during the flowering and berry set period ensured that vineyards had good growth, although these occurred later than usual. Viljoen said early cultivars had ripened later than usual, but an extremely dry, warm December had resulted in the late cultivars ripening at the normal time. The harvest was therefore taken in over a shorter period, meaning immense pressure in terms of intakes and cellar capacity.

The ideal weather conditions during the harvest season also had a positive impact on wine grape quality. It was a particularly healthy year and diseases, pests and rot only occurred later in the season, while warm, dry weather conditions and effective disease and pest control resulted in minimal losses, said Viljoen.

“Producers, viticulturists and winemakers are excited about a promising crop in terms of quality,” he said. The season contributed to intense colour, exceptional flavour and good structure in the red cultivars, especially for Pinotage. Throughout the industry, winemakers anticipate excellent fruity and tropical white wines with fresh characteristics,” said Viljoen.

Export trends
Analytix Business Intelligence, a South African marketing planning and business intelligence company, recently published a comprehensive report, commissioned by South African Wine Industry Information and Statistics, which examines SA wine exports between 2008 and 2012. It found that export volumes soared to over 407 million litres in 2008, declined to 350 million litres in 2011, then increased dramatically in 2012 to a record level of 409 million litres.

However, the per litre value has showed significant decline over the five-year period. Starting at R15,80/l in 2008, it increased to over R17,20/l in 2010, before dropping to R14,30/l in 2012.  By 2012 the top five countries importing wine from SA were still the UK, Germany, Sweden, Russia and the US, in that order, but while exports to the UK have declined from 27% of total exports to 22%, exports to the other four countries have increased somewhat.

White wine exports increased from 43% of all wine exported to 53%, overtaking red wine. This follows world consumption trends, which show the consumption of red wine is stagnating, while the consumption of white wine is on an upward trend, according to the report.

Bulk wine
One of the most significant changes in wine export trends has been the increase in bulk wine exports. These increased from 45% of total wine exports to 61%, compared with packaged wine, which in 2012 accounted for only 39% of exports.
According to the report, this massive increase is the cause of the drop in the average price paid per litre of wine, as the price for a litre of bulk wine is up to five times less than the average price per litre of packaged wine.

The report cites China and Africa as holding potential for export growth, but it also showed that wine volumes exported to Africa fell from 34,6 million litres in 2008 to 16,8 million litres in 2012. According to the report, consumption in China exceeded 1l/capita in 2010 and should double by 2015. “Once consumption reaches 2,7l/per capita, given the size of the population, China will dethrone the US as the world’s largest wine market,” the report stated.