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South Africa faces white grape shortage

South Africa is facing a dramatic shortage of white wine grapes as a result of two consecutive dry winters and a long hot summer.

The Cape has just suffered its second heatwave of the year with temperatures of up to 38C expected over the weekend, and a cold front expected yesterday.

The total harvest as a whole will be down by around 9% on 2004, with the most dramatic decline seen in the production of good Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes.

The important harvest in the Breede River region – which is a vital supplier of quality grapes on a large scale – is down by around 20% on last year.

White grapes represent around 60% of the harvest. The decline in Chenin Blanc is particularly worrying as ‘this is a South African base cultivar on which many cellars and the co-operative sector rely to make large volume wines for the local and export markets,’ Henk Bruwer of Wine Cellars SA, which represents the majority of local wine growers, said.

Bruwer added that the industry is particularly concerned about the shortage of good Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes which – along with the Chenin situation – will make it very difficult for producers to supply wine at competitive prices.

He said that although local consumers were currently in a good position – due to the strong Rand there is a good quantity of wine on the local market – but with the decline in stock levels it would be difficult to maintain the current low prices.

‘The current state of affairs should eradicate the perception that South Africa sits with a massive wine surplus,’ says Bruwer. ‘As a result of the current poor harvest, cellars will use previous years’ stocks to meet market requirements. With stocks expected to decline further, there will be no substantial stock reserves to fall back on – especially with white wine.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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