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Wine industry expecting record crop

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The 2013 harvest season exceeded the expectations of the South African wine industry and this will be the biggestwine grape crop ever produced, although it had a late and slow start.

Although the crop was harvested later than usual and over a short time, the cold, wet winter constituted ideal weather conditions during the flowering and berry set period and moderate weather conditions during this harvest season throughout the various viticultural areas contributed to the size and quality of this year’s harvest. It was also a particularly healthy year with effective disease and pest control by producers where needed.

Bigger harvests are expected in all the wine districts, with the exception of Robertson, and record crops are on the cards for Olifants River, Breedekloof and Worcester. After two dry and consequently smaller vintages, Malmesbury produced a considerably bigger crop and in the Orange River district it’s quite evident that the vineyards are starting to recover from the flood damage that occurred in 2011.

The total crop is 4.6% higher than the record crop in 2008 – and high-quality wines are anticipated for the 2013 vintage.

Crop size** – The 2013 wine grape crop is expected to reach 1 491 432 tons according to the latest estimate (30 April) of the SA Wine Industry Information and Systems (Sawis). This exceeds the 2012 crop by 5.4% and is 4.6% bigger than the previous record crop in 2008. With the exception of Robertson, the rest of the nine wine districts had bigger crops than in 2012 with record crops in Olifants River, Breedekloof and Worcester.

The 2013 wine harvest – including juice and concentrate for non-alcoholic purposes, wine for brandy and distilling wine– is expected to amount to 1 152 million litres, calculated at an average recovery of 773 litres per ton of grapes.

2012/13 Growing season – The harvest season was particularly late and about two weeks shorter than usual. Prolonged winter conditions continued in some areas up until September, followed by a cool spring, which delayed bud burst by 7 to 14 days. The cold, wet weather conditions ensured even bud burst, as well as the accumulation of water supplies that would allow the vineyards to cope with the warmer conditions later in the season.

The vineyards had good growth in ideal dry weather conditions during the flowering and berry set period, although it occurred later than usual.

Early cultivars ripened later than usual but an extremely dry, warm December resulted in the late cultivars being ripened at the normal time. The harvest was therefore taken in over a shorter period of time, which added to immense pressure in terms of intakes and cellar capacity.

Ideal weather conditions during the harvest season – moderate day temperatures, cool night temperatures and no prolonged rain of heat waves – had a positive impact on wine grape quality and establishing good colour and flavour.

It was also a particularly healthy year and diseases, pests and rot only occurred later in the season, while warm, dry weather conditions and effective disease and pest control resulted in minimal losses.

Wine potential – Producers, viticulturists and winemakers are excited about a promising crop in terms of quality. The moderate harvest season contributed to intense colour, exceptional flavour and good structure in the red cultivars, especially for Pinotage appearing good in terms of size and quality. Throughout the industry winemakers anticipate excellent fruity and tropical white wines with fresh characteristics.

Breedekloof – An ideal year with exceptional quantity and quality.

Klein Karoo – A large crop of high quality which was harvested over a short, late harvest period.

Malmesbury – A big crop with promising wines of good flavour, colour and structure after two dry years and consequent small crops.

Olifants River – A record crop of average quality placed immense pressure on the wine cellars.

Orange River – A slightly larger crop throughout the cultivar spectrum indicates that the vineyards recovered from the large-scale flood damage that occurred in 2011.

Paarl – A very good crop this year – slightly bigger with exceptional quality.

Robertson – A late vintage with many challenges, above-average quality and some good productions.

Stellenbosch – A slightly bigger wine grape crop delivers good quality wines, especially with top quality red wines.

Worcester – The biggest crop ever – harvested in a relatively short time – with the promise of good quality wines.

* An agricultural/viticultural report

** Crop sizes are based on the Sawis estimate of 30 April 2013.

See http://www.vinpro.co.za for the detailed harvest report per district.

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