Wine harvest looks promising but wine glut bothersome

Wine harvest looks promising but wine glut bothersome
Early crop estimates suggest that the 2021 wine grape harvest will be similar in volume to the previous year’s crop. Photo: FW Archive
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The South African wine industry expects a promising 2021 wine grape harvest, according to the industry’s first crop estimate.

The industry bodies SAWIS (South African Wine Industry Information and Systems) and Vinpro said in early estimates that a wine grape crop bordering on the 2020 figure of close to 1,3 million tons was expected at this early stage.

Winemakers and viticulturists are also positive about the quality of this year’s crop.

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According to Rico Basson, managing director of Vinpro, favourable conditions during bunch initiation (October/November 2019) with sufficient heat and good rainfall laid a good foundation for the 2021 crop.

“This was further bolstered by ample rain during winter filling farm reservoirs and irrigation dams in most of the growing regions. Good rains in areas that rely on irrigation also meant leaching of salts from the soils could take place which would improve soil quality.”

Conrad Schutte, manager of Vinpro’s viticulture consultation services division, added that if the rest of the growth and ripening phase goes smoothly, the harvest could possibly be somewhat larger than the crop realised in 2020, but still below the ten-year average.

Despite the positive outlook, there was some concern about South Africa’s wine surplus of about 250 million liters.

Basson explained that within the context of the current wine surplus, as well as a large component of uncontracted wine, due to the alcohol ban and restrictions on sales in 2020, as well as the upcoming harvest, many wine grape producers were proactive in securing contracts with manufacturers of grape juice concentrate to process a part of the 2021 crop.

He said that this was one of the ways in which the industry was slowly but surely starting to rebuild following the challenging year.

Basson pointed out that it would take more than one season for the industry to recover.

“However, it is encouraging to see that year-to-date export volumes for 2020 were maintained at the same level as in 2019, while local sales volumes have also started to recover over the past two months, which is of course good news for our industry which is still facing serious challenges,” said Basson.

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