The South African wine grape harvest 2019 has hit a record low, largely due to the preceding drought and fluctuating weather conditions during the season, Vinpro announced on Monday.
The 2019 wine harvest – including juice and concentrate for non-alcoholic purposes, wine for brandy and distilling wine – is expected to amount to 951.8 million litres at an average recovery of 777 litres per tonne of grapes.
SA is the 8th biggest wine producer world-wide and produces about 4% of the world's wine. The wine industry contributes R36bn to SA's gross domestic product (GDP) and employs nearly 290 000 people.
Most regions received good rainfall during the season, but the after-effects of the preceding three-year drought was still visible, and vineyards and soils will take some time to recover.
Severe weather fluctuations during bud break and flowering, followed by cool windy conditions during set, contributed to less and uneven bunches and smaller berries.
Although only 1.4% smaller than last year, the crop has shrunk for the second consecutive year and 2019 represents a record low since 2005 when 1 171 632 tonnes were harvested.
Winemakers are, however, positive about the quality of this year's vintage, a non-profit company which represents 3 500 SA wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders, said in a statement.
The 2019 wine grape crop is estimated at 1 225 620 tonnes, according to the latest estimate of the SA Wine Industry Information & Systems (Sawis).
"It has been a trying year for our wine grape producers and wineries. A decline in area under vines and challenging weather conditions contributed to the smaller harvest," comments Francois Viljoen, viticultural consultation service manager at Vinpro.
The Northern Cape, Swartland, Paarl and Worcester regions produced larger crops than last year, but from a low base following big losses in 2018.
Still good quality
Breedekloof and the Cape South Coast region had somewhat smaller crops, in line with average productions. Robertson and Stellenbosch also produced smaller crops. The Olifants River and Klein Karoo regions were hit hardest for the second consecutive year due to the drought.
Despite the smaller crop, wine lovers can expect good quality wines from the 2019 vintage, according to Viljoen, because the smaller wine grape berries have a greater concentration of flavours. In general, wines also had good acidity, sugar and elegance which bodes well for quality.