As the South African harvest approaches, producers are looking at yields 5% smaller than average.

Semi-arid areas in the Western Cape have ‘taken a beating’ from the drought, industry observers said yesterday.

The harvest has started two weeks earlier than normal – the earliest in 10 years, some producers said – and is reported to be ‘looking good’ although the Sauvignon Blanc yield will be smaller than expected because of the hot weather and the water shortage.

Late rains last year filled reservoirs used by Stellenbosch farmers before the crucial flowering and fruit set stages, and with the dry weather this year the vines are healthy and disease-free, officials reported.

Nicolette de Kock, chief executive of Stellenbosch Wine Routes, said the vineyards this year have been exposed to every possible weather condition.

‘Some of the vineyards suffered greatly, but the chief reason for the somewhat smaller harvest is the careful management of vineyards used by wine-farmers in the Stellenbosch region,’ De Kock said. ‘Stellenbosch’s vineyards are cultivated to deliver premium quality wines, even at the cost of a lower yield.’

Winemakers said the vintage this year will be one that tests their skills to the utmost.

Written by Agencies