SA wine quality looks promising

While the 2016 wine grape harvest will be remembered as one of the warmest, driest and most difficult to plan, it might also be regarded as one of good wine quality, according to Erhard Wolf, group manager of grapes and wine supply at brewing and beverage company Distell.

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Although the company, which delivers just under a third of South Africa’s wine, was not in a position to make representative estimates of what was happening in the wine industry as a whole, its experience so far was that wine quality seemed promising, Wolf said.

Wine grape production was substantially lower than normal in most of the regions where the company sourced its wine, according to him.

Distell had found production volumes to be about 20% lower than normal along the coastal regions, with some regions experiencing up to a 70% decrease. Dryland vineyards had been hit the hardest.

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Production in some areas, such as Durbanville, was nevertheless normal, and on average 8% higher than in areas that received good rain, such as the Klein Karoo and Robertson areas.

The company had put various strategies in place to try and alleviate the impact of dry climatic conditions on production, according to Wolf. “We have been planting more Mediterranean cultivars, such as Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Grenache, Noir, Graciano and Albarino, and we are using rootstocks that are more resistant to drought for cultivars such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinotage and Sauvignon Blanc.

In addition to this, various other strategies are used to improve water efficiency through, for example, irrigation and the recycling of water at cellars.”

He said that was satisfied with the quality of the young wines thus far.

“The aromatic late white varieties are doing exceptionally well in Distell’s cellars, while the red grapes are resulting in excellent colour and very concentrated flavours. Alcohol levels are also acceptable, in spite of the drought. Levels in almost all of the company’s red wines are around 13%.”