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South Africa welcomes ‘exceptional’ wine harvest (and it’s a whopper)

The South African wine industry is celebrating a bumper 2021 harvest thanks to cool temperatures, unusually high rainfall and a late harvest.

South African vineyard

The Vinpro South African Wine Harvest Report has declared the country’s 2021 harvest to be of ‘exceptional’ quality thanks to a cooler season, higher rainfall and later harvesting. The bounteous grape crop of around 1,461,599 tonnes* is reported to be a whopping 8.9 per cent larger than in 2020; music to the ears of South African wine producers following a year of hardship and export bans.

It seems it really has been a case of ‘good things come to those who wait’ as South Africa’s harvest began almost two weeks later than normal due to the unusually cool weather conditions throughout the season, meaning that for some the harvest didn’t finished until May.

“The vines really took their time to prepare this year’s harvest,” said Conrad Schutte, consultation and service manager, Vinpro. “Moderate weather throughout the season, and specifically during harvest time, resulted in grapes ripening slower, while developing exceptional colour and flavour. Viticulturists and winemakers are especially excited about good colour extraction, low pH levels and high natural acidity.”

The later timing of the harvest also helped to ease pressure on producers still holding onto stock as a result of the 2020 ban on exports, and restrictions on local sales. “With stock still in tanks at the beginning of harvest, producers were concerned about processing and storage capacities, with many renting additional storage space or restoring older tanks,” says Rico Basson, MD, Vinpro. “However, with sales reopening and the later start to the harvest, this pressure was eased to some extent.”

The quality of the 2021 harvest provides the industry with a fantastic opportunity to grow existing and new export markets, which will no doubt further bolster South Africa’s international position. “We are delighted that the 2021 harvest has proved to be a silver lining for the South African wine industry,” says Siobhan Thomas, CEO of Wines of South Africa. “What stands out is the consistency in quality. Already in 2021 our exports in both volume and value terms are out-performing figures from 2020 and 2019.”

The lowdown on South Africa’s regional harvest:


A very late season, characterised by a good balance between yield and quality, as vines developed healthy canopies during a moderate growing season.

Cape South Coast

Challenging weather conditions led to a smaller crop, but enabled producers to truly make cool climate wines of exceptional quality.

Klein Karoo

Moderate weather conditions, good water availability and sufficient winter rainfall in certain areas resulted in a larger crop and great quality, although drought conditions still persist in some parts of the region, placing wine grape producers under great pressure

Northern Cape

A good crop in terms of quality and volume, despite challenges in terms of sugar accumulation and load shedding during the peak of harvest time.

Olifants River

A later and cooler season resulted in slow, but even ripening of a somewhat larger and outstanding quality wine grape crop.


Good water availability, sufficient reserves and cooler weather contributed to yields equal to that of 2020, which will result in elegant wines.


Although it was a long and extended season, the vineyards realised a higher, exceptional quality yield.


A smaller crop, but outstanding quality grapes, resulting in great wines with good ageing potential.


Exceptional wines from this year’s crop, following moderate weather conditions and slow ripening.


One of the latest harvests recorded in this region, bringing with it a larger wine grape crop and remarkable wines.


*Latest figures from industry body SAWIS (South African Wine Industry Information & Systems) on 19th May 2021.


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