The GEN-Z Vineyard Project, a flagship initiative by Vinpro, has unveiled its much-anticipated 2022/2023 report, shedding light on the progress, challenges, and ground-breaking advancements made over the past year.
The report highlights the project’s commitment to innovation, climate change mitigation, precision farming, and the nurturing of new grape varieties, all while fostering knowledge transfer and embracing cutting-edge technology.
Since its inception in 2017, the GEN-Z Vineyard Project has successfully established an impressive total of 63 demonstration sites across the greater Cape Winelands region in South Africa.
These sites encompass a diverse array of demonstrations, including 22 cultivar sites, 22 clone sites, 15 rootstock sites, three trellis-system sites, and a dedicated pruning demonstration block. This multi-faceted approach has yielded remarkable insights into various viticultural practices and their impacts on grape quality and yield.
Notably, this year’s harvest showcased a week-earlier start and a week-earlier finish, underscoring the project’s ability to optimise vineyard management strategies.
The collection of a staggering 480 samples, compared to 332 in the previous year, further exemplifies the project’s dedication to meticulous data collection and analysis.
The GEN-Z Vineyard Project team, comprised of visionaries Francois Viljoen, Emma Carkeek, Zahn Haasbroek, and Logan Jooste, has been unwavering in its pursuit of excellence. In a bid to expand the project’s horizons, cover crop demonstration sites were established at Welgevallen and Goudini Cellars, adding an additional layer of complexity and sustainability to the project’s repertoire.
Francois Viljoen, the project’s founder and leader, expressed excitement about the future, stating, “Our plans for the upcoming 2023 vine-planting season include the establishment of five new demonstration sites. These sites will be integral in realising our vision of following the journey from soil to cellar.”
These forthcoming demonstrations, bolstered by the support of Vititec, a prominent vineyard solutions provider, aim to streamline the project’s approach by focusing on fewer sites with a higher density of vines.
Four new interplanting demonstration sites are on the horizon, featuring experimental plantings of Egiodola and Vermentino at Cederberg Wines, a diverse collection of Shiraz clones at Saronsberg Cellar, Arinarnoa vines in Vredendal, and a unique hybrid cultivar assembly at Welgevallen.
Experimental site in Kakamas
Additionally, the GEN-Z Project is set to break new ground with its Vine Academy in Kakamas, slated for 2024. This experimental site will serve as a platform for education and exploration, nurturing both established and lesser-known grape varieties. Boland Agricultural School’s site is also showing promising progress, and plans are in place for further expansion in the coming year.
One of the project’s standout achievements is the Welgevallen site in Stellenbosch, designed to train the next generation of winemakers and viticulturists. The site’s 2023 yield of 11.4 tonnes of Chenin Blanc was harvested and processed by students from Stellenbosch University, reinforcing the project’s commitment to education and skills development.
GEN-Z’s dedication to knowledge transfer was further exemplified by its information days, offering a platform for young professionals in the South African wine industry to connect, learn, and collaborate. The attendance of 70 budding industry experts underscores the project’s role in nurturing a shared vision for the future.
Conrad Schutte, CEO of Vinpro, applauded the GEN-Z team’s achievements, noting, “The tireless efforts of the GEN-Z team in driving innovation and technology within our industry are commendable.
“Establishing and maintaining over 63 demo sites is a remarkable feat that enriches our understanding of every aspect, from soil to vine. The Welgevallen demo site and the project’s educational initiatives are instrumental in shaping the future of winemaking and viticulture in South Africa.”
As the GEN-Z Vineyard Project continues to push the boundaries of viticultural excellence and sustainability, its impact resonates across the wine value chain, promising a more enlightened and dynamic future for the entire industry.