While the 2022 wine grape harvesting period has had a slow start, producers in all regions have now started harvesting. This as cooler weather conditions in the run-up to this year’s peak season have slowed down ripening.
Good cold weather conditions and above-average rainfall in winter replenished water resources and built up sufficient cold units, according to Conrad Schutte, manager of Vinpro’s consultation service.
But the cooler weather also meant that the growing stages across all regions – from budding to flowering and ripening – took place much later than normal. Although heat accelerated ripening in December and January, vineyards were still not able to catch up.
“At long last, producers have started harvesting in all ten wine grape growing regions, with some variation between the respective regions in terms of upward and downward trends due to the geographical diversity of our industry,” Schutte said.
According to the third estimate by viticulturists and producer cellars issued by SAWIS (SA Wine Industry Information and Systems) and Vinpro mid-February, the 2022 wine grape harvest will still be smaller than in 2021, in line with the previous estimate in January. The decrease is mainly attributed to the uprooting of vineyards, fungal pressure due to unprecedented rainfall and sunburn damage due to heat peaks during January in certain regions.
Viticulturists share progress on 2022 harvest season:
Breedekloof and Worcester
“Grapes are taken in gradually at cellars in the Breedekloof and Worcester regions – mainly Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay – while the majority of the red cultivars are still hanging on the vines,” according to Vinpro consultant Pierre Snyman.
The long, cool runup to harvest time has decelerated photosynthesis and the build-up of sugar, which slows down ripening. Winemakers are expected to make adjustments in the cellar after grape acidity fell due to the sudden heat waves in early February. Sunburn damage has also occurred in places, which can influence crop size.
Paarl and Swartland
The harvesting of white wine grapes in the Paarl and Swartland is well underway and most cellars are already starting to take in Pinotage as well as some other red cultivars here and there.
“Despite instances of sunburn damage, the first wines that are currently fermenting in the cellars bode well for a beautiful vintage,” said Vinpro consultant Hanno van Schalkwyk.
Stellenbosch and Cape South Coast
“Despite a few hot days in January, the Stellenbosch region is still experiencing a relatively cool season, which delays ripening,” said Vinpro’s Etienne Terblanche. The early cultivars are about ten days later than normal. Chardonnay, Pinotage and Sauvignon Blanc are well underway, along with a small amount of Merlot. The yields and quality of the early cultivars look good at this stage, and as for the later cultivars, producers hope that autumn will not come too early.
Harvest time has just started in the Cape South Coast region and after a good, cold winter, the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes that are currently being taken in are especially promising. “Despite rain during the growing season and consequent fungal disease pressure, the vineyards and grapes are generally healthy and we look forward to this year’s harvest,” Terblanche said.
“Harvest time is three to four days late in the Olifants River region, but certain cellars are quietly on the move as grapes start coming in,” according to Vinpro’s Gert Engelbrecht.
Colombar and Chenin Blanc grapes are now mostly being harvested, along with some of the early red cultivars. Above average warm weather in January prevented fungal diseases, while also leading to lower acidity, higher pH and a more tropical wine style in the Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.
“The Northern Cape region is experiencing one of its most challenging seasons in years,” said André Aggenbag, manager of viticultural services at Orange River Cellars. The region has recorded unprecedented rainfall since January, causing vineyards to experience high disease pressure and rot. Withholding periods for certain chemicals also currently make it virtually impossible to control, for example, downy mildew, which leads to leaf fall and delayed ripening and will affect crop size.
The season is generally two weeks later than usual, with producers expected to finish harvesting Chenin Blanc by mid-March and Colombar also now being taken to cellars. “It’s a challenging season, but keep going and make the best of what we have,” Aggenbag urged producers.
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