Winemakers in South Africa expect to make ‘exceptional’ wines from the 2015 harvest, which was one of the driest and earliest in years, says a new report by trade body VinPro.

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Ken Forrester harvesting old vine reserve Chenin earlier this year. Image credit: Ken Forrester.

According to the latest estimate from South African Wine Industry Information and Systems (Sawis), the 2015 wine harvest will amount to just over 1.5m tons, 1.1% smaller than last year’s record harvest.

Francois Viljoen, manager of the consultation service at VinPro, which represents South Africa’s wine producers and growers, said the 2015 harvest had ‘the earliest start in decades’.

He added: ‘Warm weather in August resulted in earlier bud break, after which a warm, dry and windy summer kept vineyard growth under control and accelerated ripening by approximately two weeks.’

Viljoen described this year’s wines as ‘beautiful’, with exceptional wines from across the spectrum of grape varieties, and some winemakers praising 2015 as a career highlight.

Grapes showed low pH and good acidity and sugar levels, with smaller berries giving red wines good colour and intense flavour.

Cropping levels varied across the country, with Worcester recording the largest wine grape crop in the region’s history, and Robertson also up. Meanwhile, Orange River, Olifants River and Breedekloof had harvests similar in size to 2014, and all other areas registered smaller crops.

The dry conditions also impacted dryland vineyards in coastal regions, which were affected by water shortages, but ensured there were almost no losses to disease or rot VinPro said.

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Written by Richard Woodard