While it’s still too early to get excited, indications are that this year might be better than 2006 for the wine industry, aaccording to Su Birch, CEO of Wines of South Africa. “The local market has been growing well for the past six months, and wine exports have also started to look stronger over the past three months,” said Birch. She added SA is also starting to establish itself in alternative markets and demand for wines is growing in China and the US in particular.
Australian grape production dropped from 1,8 million tons to 1,2 million tons due to unfavourable climatic conditions and this will affect business sentiment. KWV spokesperson Niel van Staden said export prices are looking much more favourable due to the weakening rand.
The wine grape harvest, which is currently in full swing, is earlier than usual due to the warm climatic conditions experienced in the Western Cape. As a result, wines will be the first of the 2007 vintage to hit the European market for summer, which would definitely improve the visibility of wines there, said Van Staden.
A heat wave, which occurred just before harvesting, caused heat stress and had a negative impact on vineyards on shallow soils and soils with low water-retention capacities. However, vineyards on deep soils and in cooler regions, and those with well-managed leaf canopies, were hardly affected by the heat and a normal, good-quality harvest is expected from them.
The harvest is expected to be about 0,5% smaller than the 2006 harvest at 966 million litres, with the early white wine cultivars displaying the biggest decrease, according to Wine Industry and Information Systems. Stock levels are also estimated to drop from 382 million litres on 31 December 2006 to 343,8 million litres on 31 December 2007. – Glenneis Erasmus