Yesterday I attended the annual VinPro information day creating a platform to share industry information and expectations for the 2016 harvest.
The financial challenges faced by wine producers in South Africa are undeniable. According to VinPro’s Manager for the wine cellar division, Christo Conradie, only 15% of wine grape producers are currently profitable with 30% making a loss. Shocking figures really. He attributes this to income not keeping up with the rising input costs. I am in total agreement with him that it is our responsibility as an industry to work together on a strategy to change this. Let’s see what we can do via the WISE platform in 2016.
There are some positives however: an increase in local wine sales figures, internationally-competitive quality, passionate winemakers and the growth in wine tourism. Conradie urged attendees to identify possibilities for improvement, not to be scared of change and to always keep in mind customer preference.
Back on product, an important part of the VinPro day for me is to get Francois Viljoen‘s ideas on the harvest. And of course this year, the drought and heat are two factors that definitely influence quality and yield. Except for the Orange River and Klein Karoo areas, the overall crop is expected to be smaller. And while the high temperatures are negative for production, Viljoen explains that lighter bunches and smaller berries can result in exceptional quality, colour and flavour concentration.
La Motte Cellarmaster, Edmund Terblanche (on the photo with me), agrees. “I am expecting the smaller berries to result in complexity and intensity for our red wines”, he says.
“We are challenged by the heat and water shortages as we had on average 33% less rain than normal and are running out of irrigation options. We did however start with good conditions during autumn and winter 2015 with ample cold units and initial normal rainfall. Spring also started off well without too much wind or heat and at that stage enough water. It is since the end of October that the exceptional heat and dry conditions created negative conditions. Metabolic processes of the vine change in the heat and quality factors such as acidity and flavours are influenced. Dry land vineyards, especially, suffer in these conditions.
Similar to last year, the harvest also started 10 to 14 days earlier than what we see as normal. As mentioned, berry size is smaller, bunches lighter and yields lower.
It is the first time that we have harvested Sauvignon Blanc before Pinot Noir for our Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wine and it is a clear indication that the changed conditions affected cultivars differently. The Pinot Noir yield, for instance, is much lower while Sauvignon Blanc volumes are quite similar to 2015.
I am exceptionally pleased with our Franschhoek Sauvignon Blanc. Acidity is slightly lower, but the grapes are healthy with intense tropical flavours.
It might be a challenging year, but up till now it has been more interesting than negative and I look forward to what we can do with the 2016 harvest.”