2017 SA harvest ‘one of the best seen in many years’

South Africa’s 2017 grape harvest was slightly larger than the previous year, wine industry body VinPro has confirmed, with dry conditions offset by cool nights resulting in healthy vineyards and good grape concentration.

The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

The total volume of grapes harvested was 1,425,283 tonnes, according to the South African Wine Industry Information and Systems (SAWIS), a marginal increase of the 2016 harvest, but a larger crop than had been expected.

“A decrease was expected due to the second consecutive very dry season,” explained Francois Viljoen, manager of VinPro’s viticulture consultation service. “However, cooler nights throughout the growing season and the absence of significant heatwaves during harvest time buffered the effect of the dry conditions to some extent”.

2017 volumes – including juice for wine, non-alcoholic purposes and brandy – is expected to amount to 1,106.3 million litres, calculated at an average recovery of 776 litres per tonne of grapes.

The Swartland and Paarl regions obtained much larger crops following sharp declines in 2016, while Robertson’s production was close to the record harvest in 2016. The regions of Olifants River and Breedekloof increased somewhat following small crops last year, with slightly smaller yields recorded in the Northern Cape, Stellenbosch and Worcester, and a much smaller harvest in the Klein Karoo.

Although higher rainfall brought some relief in certain regions, it was still very much below average and the warmer weather conditions required producers to manage water usage very closely.

“We are grateful that the weather played along during the 2017 harvest, but looking towards the 2018 wine grape season that is around the corner, we are really hoping for rain during the upcoming post-harvest and winter period,” added Viljoen.

The dry conditions experienced throughout the 2017 vintage resulted in very healthy vineyards with limited instances of pests, diseases or rot, and smaller berries with good colour and concentration, contributing to what Viljoen described as an “exceptional” vintage.

Wines of South Africa’s CEO, Siobhan Thompson, added: “Having spoken to many of our producers, general sentiment is that the harvest was one of the best seen in many years, specifically in terms of quality. The cooler than normal weather experienced in February saw to more even ripening periods and winemakers from various regions have commented positively on the outcome, despite the challenging weather conditions we’ve experienced. We are looking forward to seeing what this somewhat exceptional vintage does for South African wines as a whole in international markets.”

Overview of regions:

Breedekloof: A Slightly smaller harvest than in 2016 after one of the driest growing and ripening periods ever.
Klein Karoo: A much smaller harvest due to dry conditions and a shrinking area under vines.

Malmesbury/Swartland: A considerably bigger and exceptional crop after a sharp decline in 2016.

Olifants River: Ideal weather conditions contribute to a slightly larger harvest of good quality.

Northern Cape: A season of extremes and variation between producers contribute to an overall decrease.

Paarl: A good hike in production following a much smaller 2016 harvest, with favourable grape analyses.

Robertson: A dry, hot season resulted in an above-average yield, close to the record harvest in 2016.

Stellenbosch: A challenging season contributed to a smaller, but promising wine grape harvest.

Worcester: A healthy and average sized harvest for this region, but still slightly smaller than in 2016.

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