Stable growth forecast for 2019 South African wine grape crops

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However, the Klein Karoo region is still experiencing serious water shortages.

The size and quality of the 2019 wine grape crop will be influenced by weather conditions in the flowering period and leading up to harvest, together with the vineyards’ ability to recover from the drought and the relevant regions’ area under vines.

Vinpro viticulture consultants reported this industry information in a preliminary report on regional conditions, which was released by the South African Wine Industry Information and Systems.

“The dry, warm conditions that dominated the 2018 harvest season, have persisted in the post-harvest period, which, in certain cases, has had a positive effect on leaf drop and the accumulation of essential reserves,” said Vinpro viticultural consultation service manager Francois Viljoen.

“All regions experienced good cold conditions during the winter and rainfall was higher than last year, with the exception of the Klein Karoo.

“Spring has set in earlier than normal and the vines initially started to bud earlier than normal. In September, temperature fluctuations delayed vine growth, however, and, in certain cultivars, resulted in late and uneven bud burst,” he explained.

Viljoen added that rain in September prompted producers to increase their management inputs with regard to canopy and fungal disease management. By the end of September, temperatures rose again with subsequent good vine growth.

The most important catchment dams, namely the Theewaterskloof (at 58% capacity), Berg River (99%), Steenbras (above 70%), Brandvlei (59%) and Clanwilliam (96%) were fuller than last year by the start of November. Groundwater levels are also looking more positive in the Swartland, where producers mainly cultivate dryland vineyards.

Viljoen noted the greater availability of water contributes to the industry's expectation that the wine grape crop will return to normal levels in most regions, provided that the favourable weather conditions continue and no excessive wind, heat or rainfall occur leading up to the 2019 harvest, which normally kicks off at the end of January.

Low reserve levels owing to the previous three years' drought, as well as a shrinking area under vines in the majority of regions, will be decisive factors in the 2019 harvest.

The total hectares under wine grape vineyards in South Africa shrunk by 1 296 ha in 2017, measured against the previous year.

“On the positive side, we saw a revival in wine grape vineyard plantings in 2018,” Viljoen pointed out.