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South Africa 2016 wine harvest is smallest for five years

Read a report on South Africa's latest wine harvest...

The South Africa 2016 wine grape harvest is set to be the smallest in five years after a hot, dry growing season impacted yields – but early reports suggest that quality is still good.

Stellenbosch, Paarl and Swartland were among the worst affected regions as heatwaves hit the vineyards from the end of October through to the end of January, said viticultural consultants at VinPro, the umbrella organisation for South Africa’s wine producers.

Current estimates suggest a wine grape crop of 1.38m tons, expected to produce 1.07m litres, including juice for other purposes such as distilling – which would be 6.7% down on last year’s crop and the smallest harvest since 2011.

‘Although the crop is smaller, the industry still managed to reach higher productions than initially expected following a season characterised by abnormal heat and water shortages,’ said Francois Viljoen, manager of VinPro’s viticulture consultation service.

Production was higher in regions such as Robertson and the Klein Karoo, which had sufficient winter rainfall, but most other regions had smaller crops, with yields in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Swartland ‘much lower’ than in 2015.

Sunburn damage was an issue, especially in Stellenbosch and Worcester, but the dry conditions ensured excellent sanitary conditions for the maturing grapes.

The heat also restricted growth, leading to more compact bunches and smaller berries, in turn leading to more concentrated colour and flavour. Ripening was achieved at lower alcohol levels, but acidity was also reduced.

The harvest began about a week earlier than usual, and ended about two weeks ahead of schedule, although cooler conditions at the end aided later-ripening grapes.

Regional overview of the 2016 South Africa wine harvest (source: VinPro): See descriptions below, or zoom in on the map and click a red pin for a brief summary of that area.

Breedekloof: Slightly smaller crop than in 2015, but still above average and good quality.

Klein Karoo: A cold, wet winter and a warm, dry summer led to a big and healthy crop.

Malmesbury/Swartland: A significantly smaller crop taken in early and over a short period.

Olifants River: Despite challenging climate conditions and a significantly smaller crop, good quality wines expected.

Orange River: A smaller crop with great variations in yields between producers.

Paarl: An abnormally small crop, with all varieties ripening early and simultaneously.

Robertson: Ideal conditions leading to a bigger crop and promising wines.

Stellenbosch: Significantly smaller crop due to dry, warm weather and veld fires.

Worcester: Bigger harvest than in 2015, despite limited water, unusual heat and veld fires.

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